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hnkii Characters 






** degli altri poeti onore e lume, 
Vagliami il lango studio e il grande amore, 
Che m' ha fatto cercar lo tuo volume ! " 

— Dantb : Inferno y Canto I. 

thou of bardfl the glory and the light, 
Be it not wholly vain, that year on year 
With a great love I have explored thy book ! 


Female Characters 












Alt Rights reurveU 


1 1' 





The Queen 




viii LEnvou 

that I would have them printed, at least for 
circulation among my friends. I could refuse her 
nothing, and she had my promise. When the letters 
were seen within my own immediate circle, I was 
strongly urged to make them public, and to extend 
them to the other characters of Shakespeare with 
the impersonation of which I had been especially 
identified. In this way these letters grew, one by 
one, under my hand into the present volume. 

I could find much to say of other Shakespearian 
heroines whom it has been my delight to personate, 
— such as the noble widowed suffering mother, Con- 
stance of Bretagne; that much -wronged sweetest 
queen, Hermione; the truthful, tenderly devoted 
daughter, CordeKa ; the saintly Isabella ; and Mir- 
anda, fuU of "plain and holy innocence," a being 
"created of every creature's best." But my task is 
ended. I feel that my gaUery of "fair warriors" is 
already full enough. 

What I have said has been written in a loving 
and reverent spirit, with the wish to express in 

simplest language what I feel deeply about these 

exquisite creations of Shakespeare's genius. That 

fuller justice might well be done to them I do not 

doubt. Still I have had the great advantage of 

L Envoi. IX 

throwing my own nature into theirs, of becoming 
moved by their emotions : I have, as it were, 
thought their thoughts and spoken their words 
straight from my own living heart and mind. I 
know that this has been an exceptional privilege; 
and to those not so fortunate I have striven to 
communicate something of what I have learned in 
the exercise of my potent art. 

My best reward would be, that my sister-women 
should give me, in return, the happiness of think- 
ing that I have helped them, if ever so little, to 
appreciate more deeply, and to love with a love 
akin to my own, these sweet and noble represen- 
tatives of our sex, and have led them to acknow- 
ledge with myself the infinite debt we owe to the 
poet who could portray, as no other poet has so 
fully done, under the most varied forms, all that 
gives to woman her brightest charm, her most 
beneficent influence. 

H. F. M. 





IV. JUUET, . ) 


y. JULIET {Condudml),) 


In Utters to the laU Miu OenddineJ 
E. Je¥Mhury, j 

the late Mrs 8, C, ffalL 








In a Utter to Miu Anna Swanwich. 

OP Britain, 

VIL ROSALIND, In a Utter to Bobert Brtnoning, Eiq. 

VIIL BEATRICE, In a Utter to John Jttukin, Esq, 

MR browning's " BLOT ON THE SCUTCHEON," 










PORTRAIT OF LADY MARTIN, after a Paihtihq 

BT Rudolf Lehmasv, To face tide-page 


BT THE LATE RiCHARD J. LaNB, . . Tofocep, 122 


BT Sir Frbderio Burton ^^ 196 




Bbtmttbiuo, Aujftut 10, ISSO. 
" row of Hk; ! Sweet Opbelift t " 

nNli BO you ask me, my friend — indeed, I may 
almost say that you insist — after our lat« talk 
(iver her, that I should put down in writing 
my idea of Ophelia, so that yon may make, as 
yuu say, a new study of her character. 
Accustomed as you are to write fluently all your thoughts, 
you will hardly believe what a difficult task you have set me. 
My views of Shakespeare's women have been wont to take 
their shape in the living portraiture of the stage, and not in 
words. I have, in imagination, lived their lives from the 
very b^;iuning to the end ; and Ophelia, as I have pictured 

4 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

her, is so unlike what I hear and read aboat her, and have 
86^1 represented on the stage, that I can scarcely hope to 
make any one think of her as I da It hurts me to hear her 
spoken of, as she often is, as a weak creatore, wanting in 
trathfolness, in purpose, in force of diaracter, and only in- 
teresting when she loses the little wits she had. And y^ 
who can wonder that a character so delicately outlined, 
and shaded in with strokes so fine, should be often gravely 

Faint and delicate, however, as these shadowings are, they 
are yet so true to nature, and at the same time so full of 
suggestion, that I look on Ophelia as one of the strongest 
proofs our great master has left us of his belief in the actor's 
art (his own), and of his trust in the power possessed, at least 
by sympathetic natures, of filling up his outlines, and giving 
full and vivid life to the creatures of his brain. Without 
this belief, could he have written as he did, when boys and 
beardless youths were the only representatives of his women 
on the stage ? Tes, he must have looked beyond " the ignorant 
present," and known that a time would come when women, 
true and worthy, should find it a glory to throw the best part 
of their natures into these ideal types which he has left to 
testify to his faith in womanhood, and to make them living 
realities for thousands to whom they would else have been 
unknown. Think of a boy as Juliet ! as " heavenly Rosalind ! " 
as " divine Imogen ! " or the gracious lady of Belmont, " richly 
left," but still more richly endowed by nature — "The poor 
rude world," says Jessica, " hath not her fellow." Think of a 
boy as Miranda, Cordelia, Hermione, Desdemona — who " was 
heavenly true "—as the bright Beatrice, and so on, through all 

Ophelia. 5 

the wondrous gallery ! How could any youth, however gifted 

and specially trained, even faintly suggest these fair and 

noble women to an audience ? Woman's words coming from 

a man's lips, a man's heart — it is monstrous to think of ! One 

quite pities Shakespeare, who had to put up with seeing his 

brightest creations thus marred, misrepresented, spoiled. 

But to come back to Ophelia. She was one of the pet 

dreams of my girlhood — ^partly, perhaps, from the mystery 

of her madness. In my childhood I was much alone — taken 

early away from school because of delicate health ; often sent 

to spend months at the seaside, in the charge of kind but busy 

people, who, finding me happy with my books on the beach, 

left me there long hours by myself. I had begged from home 

Uie Shakespeare I had been used to read there — an acting 

edition by John Kemble. This and the Arabian Nights — 

how dear these books were to me ! Then I had the PUgrinCs 

Progress and Milton's Paradise Lost. Satan was my great 

hero. I think I knew him by heart. His address to the 

council I have often declaimed to the waves, when sure of 

being unobserved. I had also a translation — I do not know 

by whom (poor enough, but good enough for me then) — of 

Dante's In/emo, some lines of which sank deep into my heart. 

I have not seen the book for years and years ; but they are 

still there : — 

" Up ! be bold I 
VanquiBh fatigue by energy of mind ! 
For not on plumes or canopied in state 
The soul wins lame ! " * 

' I have recently found among my old school-bookB this little volume, which 
fint introduced me to Dante. It is entitled, The Itrferno of DanU Alighieri, 

6 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

How often aiiice, in life's haid struggles and troubles, have 
these lines helped me I 

M7 hocks were indeed a strange medlqr, bat thej were all 
that were within my reach, and I found them satisfying. 
They filled mj young heart and mind with what faudnated 
me most, the gorgeons, the wonderful, the grand, the heroic, 
the self-denying, the self-devoting. 

Like all children, I kept, as a rule, my greatest del^t to 
myselL I remember on some occasions, after I had returned 
lunne to my usnal studies, when a doubt arose about some 
passage which had happened to be in the little storehoose of 
my memory, being able to repeat whole chapters and scenes 
of my favourites to the amused ears of those about me. But 
I never revealed how much my life was wrapped up in them, 
even to my only sister, dear as she was to me. She was 
many years older than myself, and too fond of fun to share 
in my day-and-night dreams. I knew I should only be 
laughed at 

Thus I had lived again and again through the whole child- 
hood and lives of many of Shakespeare's heroines, long before 

imnaUa^ imio Ew^uh Btani Verde wiih y<des bf Natkm^id ffmmrd. Lomdon: 
1S07. The [n—ge referred to in the text oocun in cento xnr. (linee 46 to 
M of the original). It is toored in pencfl on the margin with en emphaeis, 
which ehowB how much it had im p r wed me. My memory d e c e i fe d me as 
to the teqnence of the tines, which are as foDowe : — 

" fJp,** cried the sage, " now needs thy ardnons strength. 
For not on plumes, or canopied in state. 
The sonl wins fisme, withont whose ntal smile 
Whoe'er consomes away his gift of life. 
Expires, and leaves such Testige of himself 
As smoke in air, or unregarded foam 
Quick-dying in the water. Up ! be bold ! 
Vanquish fatigue by energy of mind, 
Tliat conquers erery strug^e, if uncrushed 
Beneath the burden of the hodfu frameu " 

Ophelia, 7 

it was my happy privilege to impersonate and make them, in 
my fashion, my own. During the few years I acted under 
Mr Macready's management, almost the first, as you know, 
in my theatrical life, I was never called upon to act the 
character of Ophelia — I suppose, because the little snatches of 
song (though merely, one might say, the humming of a tune) 
kept still alive the tradition that an accomplished singer was 
required for the part. I had my wish, however, when in 
Paris, a little later, I was asked, as a favour, to support 
Mr Macready in ffamUt by acting Ophelia. I need not say 
how nervous I felt — all the more because of this singing 
tradition. The performances were given in the Salle Venta- 
dour, on the " oif-nights " of the Italian Opera. 

Oh how difficult it is, however much you have lived in a 
thing, to make real your own ideal, and give it an utterance 
and a form ! To add to my fright, I was told, just before 
entering on the scene, that Grisi and many others of the 
Italian group were sitting in a private box on the stage. But 
I believe I sang in tune, and soon forgot her and all else. I 
could not help feeling that I somehow drew my audience with 
me. And what an audience it was! No obtrusive noisy 
applause, for there was no organised ckique for the English 
plays; but what an indescribable atmosphere of sympathy 
surrounded you! Every tone was heard, every look was 
watched, felt, appreciated. I seemed lifted into " an ampler 
ether, a diviner air." Think, if this were so in Desdemona, in 
Ophelia, what it must have been to act Juliet to them ! I 
was in a perfect ecstasy of delight I remember that, because 
of the curtailment of some of the scenes in Borneo and Juliet 
(the brilliant Mercutio was cut out), I had to change my dress 

8 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

very quickly, and came to the side-scene breathless. I said 
something to Mr Serle, the acting manager, about the hot 
haste of it all — ^no pause to gather one's self up for the great 
exertion that was to follow. He replied, " Never mind, you 
will feel no fatigue after this." And he was right. The 
inspiration of the scene is at all times the best anodyne 
for pain and bodily fatigue. But who could think of either 
before an audience so sensitively alive to every touch of the 
artist's hand ? 

But to return to " sweet Ophelia." I learned afterwards that, 
among the audience, when I first played her, were many of 
the finest minds in Pans; and these found ''most pretty 
things " to say of the Ophelia to which I had introduced them. 
Many came after the play to my dressing-room, in the French 
fashion — ^to say them, I suppose ; but, having had this ordeal 
to go through before, after Desdemona, the character in which 
I first appeared in Paris, my English shyness took me out 
of the theatre as soon as I had finished, and before the 
play ended. All this was, of course, pleasant But what 
really gratified me most was, to learn that Mr Macready, 
sternest of critics, watched me on each night in the scenes of 
the fourth act ; and among the many kind things he said, I 
cannot forget his telling me that I had thrown a new light on 
the peut, and that he had never seen the mad scenes even 
approached before. How I treated them specially, it would 
be difficult to describe to you in words, because they were the 
outcome of the whole character and life of Ophelia, as these 
had shaped themselves in my youthful dream. 

And now to teU you, as nearly as I can, what that dream 

Ophelia. 9 

I pictured Ophelia to myself as the motherless child of an 
elderly Polonius. His young wife had first given him a son, 
Laertes, and had died a few years later, after giving birth to 
the poor little Ophelia. The son takes much after his father, 
and, his student-life over, seeks his pleasure in the gayer life 
of France ; fond of his little sister in a patronising way, in 
their rare meetings, but neither understanding nor caring to 
understand her nature. 

The baby Ophelia was left, as I fancy, to the kindly but 
thoroughly unsympathetic tending of country-folk, who 
knew little of " inland nurture." Think of her, sweet, fond, 
sensitive, tender-hearted, the offspring of a delicate dead 
mother, cared for only by roughly-mannered and uncultured 
natures ! One can see the lonely child, lonely from choice, 
vrith no playmates of her kind, wandering by the streams, 
plucking flowers, making wreaths and coronals, learning the 
names of all the wild flowers in glade and dingle, having 
many favourites, listening with eager ears when amused or 
lulled to sleep at night by the country songs, whose words 
(in true country fashion, not too refined) come back again 
vividly to her memory, with the fitting melodies, only, as such 
things strangely but surely do, when her wits have flown. 
Thus it is that, when she has been '' blasted with ecstasy," 
all the country customs return to her mind : the manner 
of burying the dead, the strewing the grave with flowers, 
"at his head, a grass green turf; at his heels, a stone," — 
with all the other country ceremonies. I think it important 
to keep in view this part of her supposed life, because it 
puts to flight all the coarse suggestions which unimaginative 
critics have sometimes made, to explain how Ophelia came to 

lO Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

vttcr wnrtfhfn of socli fadDads as nerer oo^it to nsiie firam 
a yoiiiig and caltoRd wioman's lips. 

When we see Ojrfidia fint, dns ''Bose of Maj' is jost 
boddii^; and, indeed, it is as a bod, nerer as a foil flower, 
Ihat she Hved her farief life: 

'*£t, rose— «ik a Teen, ee qiK TiTeiil let roaes 
L'cspace d'on matin.' 

She was still very young, in her eariy 'teens, aoeoidiBg to 
what Laertes says, when he hist sees her. We can imaginft 
her formal, ooortierly father, on one of his rare and stated 
visits to his coontry home (ill spared from his loved coort 
duties), noting with surprise his little dau^iter grown into 
the promise of a charming womanhood. The tender beauty 
of this budding rose must be no longer left to blush unseen ; 
this shy, gentle nature must be developed, made into some- 
thing more worthy of her rank. She must imbibe the court 
culture, and live in its atmosphere. She must become a court 
lady ; and this hitherto half-forgotten flower must be made to 
expand, under his own eye and teaching, into the complete- 
ness of a full-blown hothouse exotic. 

When we first see her, we may fairly suppose that she has 
been only a few months at court. It has as yet taken ofi* 
none of the bloom of her beautiful nature. That is pure 
and fresh and simple as she brought it from her country 
home. One change has taken place, and this a great one 
Her heart has been touched, and has found its ideal in the 
one man about the court who was likely to reach it, both 
from his rare and attractive qualities, and a certain loneliness 
in his position not very unlike her own. How could she 

Ophelia. 1 1 

help feeling flattered-— drawn towards this romantic, desolate 
Hamlet, the observed of all observers, whose '' music vows " 
have been early whispered in her ears ? On the other hand, 
what sweet repose it must have been to the tired, moody 
scholar, soldier, prince, dissatisfied with the world and all 
its ways, to open his heart to her, and to hear the shy yet 
eloquent talk which he would woo from her — to watch the 
look, manner, and movements of this graceful child of nature 
— watch, too, her gro¥ang wonder at her new surroundings, 
the court ceremonies, the strange diversities of character, and 
to note the impressions made upon her by them, — what delight 
to trace and analyse the workings of this pure, impressionable 
mind, all the more interesting and wonderful to him because 
of the contrast she presented to the parent stem ! In all this 
there was for him the subtle charm which the deep, philoso- 
I^cal intellect must ever find in the pure unconscious inno- 
cence and wisdom of a guileless heart 

One can see how the pompous officiousness and the plati- 
tudes of Polonius irritate Hamlet beyond endurance. What 
a contrast the daughter presents to him ! Kestful, intelligent, 
unobtrusive, altogether charming, and whom he loves '' best, 
most best, believe it. . . . Thine evermore, most dear 
lady, while this machine is to him, Hamlet." And to Ophelia, 
how great must have been the attraction of an intercourse 
with a mind like Hamlet's, when first she saw him, and had 
been sought by his " solicitings " ! How alluring, how subtlely 
sweet to one hitherto so lonely, so tender-hearted, shy, and 
diffident of her power to please; yet, though she knew it 
not, 80 well fitted to understand and to appreciate all the 
finest qualities of the young Lord Hamlet! We see how 

1 2 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

often and often they had met, by Polonius's own telling. 
Nor could he possibly have been ignorant that they did so 
meet. He says — 

" Bat what might you think. 
When I had seen this hot love on the wing, 
(As I perceived it, I must tell you that, 
Before my daughter told me)/' 

Then, all that her brother says to her shows complete 
indifference to her feelings. I never could get over the shock 
of his lecturing her ''touching the lord Hamlet/' when we 
first see them together as he is starting for France. Poor 
maiden ! to have this treasured secret of her inner life, her 
very life, her very soul, a secret so sweet, so sacred, so covered 
over, as she thinks, from all eyes — thus dragged rudely to the 
light ; discussed in the most commonplace tone, and her very 
maidenly modesty questioned! Who will say she is not 
truthful, when, on being asked, as she is soon after, by her 
father, '' What is't, Ophelia, he hath said to you ? " she replies 
at once, notwithstanding all her pain, '' So please you, some- 
thing touching the lord Hamlet " ? Think how her sensitive, 
delicate nature must again have shrunk and quivered, while 
listening to the cautious and worldly platitudes of her father, 
which follow ! Then, to be commanded to deny herself to the 
one being dear to her, and with whom she had sympathy: 
what a feeling of degradation as well as anguish must have 
been behind the few words she utters! ''I shall obey, my 

Ophelia naturally had her attendants, whose duty it was to 
tell her father of these meetings, and who evidently did so. 
They were clearly not objected to by him, and he let the inter- 

Ophelia, \ 3 

views go on, till he thought it might be as well, by interfering, 
to find out if Hamlet were in earnest in his attachment, and if 
it would be sanctioned by the king and queen. By this inter- 
ference his worldly wisdom overreached itself. It came at the 
wrong, the worst time. He bids Ophelia deny Hamlet access 
to her, trusting that this will make the Prince openly avow 
his love ; and was, of course, in entire ignorance of the fearful 
scene, the dread revelation, which had meanwhile taken place, 
and was destined to cut Hamlet's life in twain, obliterate from 
it all " trivial fond records," and shake to its foundations all 
faith in womanhood, hitherto most sacred to him in the name 
and person of his mother, the mother whom from his boyhood 
he had fondly loved, and whom he had seen so cherished 
and adored by his dead father. 

Pause a moment with me, and think of the extraordinaiy 
attractions of this mother. Another Helen of Troy she seems 
to me, in the wonderful fascination which she exercises on all 
who come within her influence ; not perhaps designedly, but, 
like the Helena of the second part of Goethe's Fav^^ by an 
untoward fate which drew on all insensibly to love her : — 

" Wehe mil ! Welch streng Qeschick 
Verfolgt inich, iiberall der Manner Bosen 
So zn bethoren, dass sie weder nch 
Noch Bonst ein Wiirdiges verschonten." 

'* Woe's me, what rathless fate 
Puisnes me, that^ where'er I go, I thus 
Befool men's senses, so they not respect 
Themselves, nor anght that's worthy ! " 

What a picture is presented of the depth of her husband's 
love, in Hamlet's words that he would not " beteem the winds 

ik hissna nsit her ?heek too roiigfaLr ' ' AxkI tfaia ^mll ^tSSL 
•«?c«m9C9i itBfsif tipnn Iiia inint nfter bis ieoth. Ofaaerve bow 
'<i>n«ierty lie '^alLi QBinlec'.-i rictennoiL to die ^ywessL in die 
*lwiet *»ne- — 

* %t jkik. iTnaiPTngTit la :inr asDCfaer :aa ! 
Oh. -— •— -— ' i ' — -i-J-^ — «-> "^ 

('^lAiuiiiu^. hii) 4ncce:!9flor perda jis sonl dot 'i**y :3ie is his aH 
in ill. -^ei* -rrhac 'le «vs jf .ler : — 

' Siicr<« io rnn^unesiTe ai my litt aml iSfiiL 
I rnnlil ant 'mt 'ly jk-.^ 

:She ijB :«»niier:ies9 iiueif jo ju^ mn. ^ T!ie inRen ^ mnrfifflr,'* 
ttvs Clftuiiiits. ' lives linuMC vf iiia luukas. ' 

r !aanoc -relieve ihoc (^«runiie knigw^ jnydung a£ cfae 
ainrder if oer anabtfuL Sa jDirn: iuea one dv^on ainc g&ac 
she ir:tti ^1^ 'J^X\''i ike oa&i 'jeen. i^aui oe Zulv)? jgnikBL 
'>f her M :«niieri7 ja he Ja^ss ' ELmilefL in "^ oisg&c of his 
pttHica^ iiveft juieeii iharze her wtca "in in ^pilcT knuwiei^ 
in the Trtirii — 

A^i^i. he <ykl> tisat-Sna ia ier bsarfsr * a mipirer sal a 
-ria^ir. : ' ?yi" ;7. r/xL ^2s»ea ;2:e frsTCAaaL di»r2r v^ikcss 
JiC, *fijf, ^ IvtT «%!, 9xA tLe pass n 6:t£. visL sack 
«k«^ tTAt >^ ftkjs, V> '^ the Left2 %iA tasut <i \as &ssBaspst7 
"'Ttit V^j^sk aoyj zndijed spcAA^ in her sexL <d iria^ii die 
^ej^s(Bk.%, we tij« iy!:9T/3 ^>f her aw&k^D&d conacae&ce; to vliicii 
)m7 li^4^4iiyf'« ^rpbil had warned Hamlet to leave faer — 
Ifjr )mt t/» xpc«dj f cffgetfolness of faer noble liw- 

Ophelia. 1 5 

band, and almost immediate marriage with his brother, the 
shame of which Hamlet's passionate words have brought 
home to her so unexpectedly and so irresistibly. 

Glertrude evidently sees with satisfaction the growing love 
between Hamlet and Ophelia. She loves the " sweet maid/' 
and hopes to see their betrothal, and to strew her bridal bed. 
On her side, Ophelia has felt fully the gracious kindness of 
the queen; has gratefully returned the affection shown to 
her ; and, like the rest, has been drawn towards her by her 
beauty and winning gradousness. A proof of this attachment 
breaks out in her madness, when she clamours for, and will 
not be denied, the presence of "the beauteous majesty of 

Ophelia's conduct in reference to the meeting with Hamlet, 
concerted by her father and the king, has drawn upon her 
head a world of most unjust censure and indignation. When 
the poor girl is brought, half willingly, half unwillingly, to 
that (for her) fatal interview, we must not forget the pre- 
vious one, described by her to her father, when she rushes 
in affrighted, and recounts Hamlet's sudden and forbidden 
intrusion upon her in her closet, where she was sewing; 
exhibiting a garb and plight in which no sane gentleman 
would venture to approach a lady — slovenly, ''his stockings 
foul'd, ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ankle," the woe- 
worn look, the sigh so piteous and profound, the eyes, as 
he went backward out of the chamber, bending to the last 
their light upon herself. Her father's interpretation is, that 
" he is mad for her love " ; and he assigns as the cause for 
this outbreak, that she " did repel his letters, and denied his 
access." Here his worldly wisdom is again at fault. 

r6 SJuiJtespear^ 

I jmi 3«it imxcttt lim : I isEBi ie oil 'sos 

All siui » sunlzacr 

the:, tfaea, ha see Iiisl aaat m/dn^^i^ mz^ Iodb 

— whether, m ber ftfho' had mil, he woe iadeed "^ aad for 
her k>re"! Ia th^ suze <A mind, ssielj she b hoc to be 
mneh bhoned, cs* judged v€xt hsuihlT, if die ^■w'**"^ lo 
lend bcnelf to the anai^BDeia profnsed far her Cttther; 
acotelj peinfol thoi^ it most haxe been to her fine nstnre. 
after denring him aooeaB to her repeetediT, thns aeonii^fy 
to thmst herself upon her lover 3 nocioe, and hecnme, as it 
were, the partner in a trick. She has, too, the sanction of 
his mother, the queen, who says: — 

** And, for jQOT put, Opbelift, I do wish, 
Thst jour good besoties be the happr eawe 
Of Hamlef fl wfldocM ; to duJl I hope toot riitoeB 
WiU bring him to bis wonted wmj agun. 
To both jour honoon.' 

Her fault, if fault it were, was cruellj expiated. She will 
test his affection by offering to return his love-tokens, his 
gifts and letters — anything to end tlus torturing suspense. We 
can believe how cautiously, how tenderly her approaches are 
made to her so deeply loved, and, as she fears, afflicted Prince. 
That Ophelia should, after repeatedly denying her presence to 
him, thus place herself in Hamlet's path, and challenge his 
notice, at once excites in his mind a suspicion of some device 

Ophelia. 1 7 

to drcumvent him. Saluting her at first gently, his tone 
alters, as he sees in the offer of the return of his '' remem- 
brances " a repetition of the plot laid for him before in the 
persons of Bosencrantz and Goildenstem. That he is again 
to be thus played with, and that this innocent girl, as he had 
thought her, should lend herself to entrap him, drives him 
past his patience ; and without mercy he soon begins to pour 
down upon her the full vials of his wrath. In their last in- 
terview he has been touchingly gentle and sad : voiceless — 
showing a pathos beyond words : like the reluctant parting of 
the soul from the body. Now, his rude, meaningless words, his 
violent manner, his shrill voice, '' out of tune and harsh," the 
absence of all courtesy, convince her that he is mad indeed. 

How can it be otherwise ? In all their former intercourse 
he had appeared to her as 

*^ The expectancy and rose of the fair state, 
The glass of fashion, and the mould of fonn, 
The observed of all observers ! " 

His gifts were offered to her with '' words of so sweet breath 
composed as made the things more rich." Now he could 
not be more pitiless if the worst of her sex stood there, 
and not this young creature, this tender willow, swaying, 
bending before the storm-bursts of his wrath, the cutting 
winds of his fierce words. Many of these words, these re- 
proaches, must have passed harmless over the innocent head 
which did not know their meaning. But what a picture (who 
could paint it?) is that of the stunned, bewildered, heart- 
stricken lamb, thus standing alone to bear the sins of all her 
sex tlirown at her ! She can only whisper a prayer or two for 
him — ^no thought of her own desolation comes to her. " Oh, 


1 8 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

help him, you sweet Heavena ! ... Oh Heavenly powers, restore 
him ! " When suddenly challenged, " Where's your father ? " 
the question recalls to her remembrance, what she has for the 
time forgotten in deeper matter, that he is at this very mo- 
ment acting the d^rading part of an eavesdropper. What 
can she do but stammer out in reply, '' At home, my lord " ? 
Shall she expose the old man, when thus called to answer for 
him, to the insults, the violence of Hamlet's mad anger, which 
she fears would have fallen upon him had she told the truth ? 
No ; like Desdemona she faces the falsehood, and, to screen 
her father, takes it upon her own soul : '' Oh, who has done 
this deed ? . . . Nobody ; I myself. Farewell ; commend me 
to my kind lord." Who thinks of condemning Desdemona ? 
As Emilia says, " Oh, she was heavenly true." And yet I 
have seen Ophelia's answer brought forward as a proof of her 
weakness ; and this weakness of character asserted to be the 
cause of Hamlet's failure, or, at least, to play an important 
part in the tragedy of his character. Such weakness I call 
strength, in the highest, most noble, because most self -forget- 
ting, sense of the word. 

And so Ophelia, in her '' weakness," fears to tell the truth, 
lest, in this too terrible paroxysm of madness which now pos- 
sesses him, Hamlet might possibly kill her father. But this 
catastrophe is soon to follow, and proves to be the drop too 
much in her cup of lonely anguish. When Hamlet has left 
the scene, even then, I think, no sob is heard, no tears are 
shed : there is no time yet for self-pity. Her soul's agony is 
too deep for tears — beyond all utterance of the common kind. 
First in her thoughts is the ''noble mind o'erthrown," and 
''most sovereign reason, like sweet bells jangled." At last. 

Ophelia. 19 

when she has gone through the catalogue of his rare virtues, 
his princely qualities, his noble attributes — all '' quite, quite 
down " . — at iht end she looks at herself — she who had " sucked 
the honey of his music vows." What is left for her ? — ^for her, 
''of ladies most deject and wretched"? "Oh, woe is me! 
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see ! " This is all 
she says, *" still harping on " Hamlet 

In the usual stage arrangement Ophelia leaves the scene 
with these words. But how much more touching is Shake- 
speare's idea that she shall remain ! Her heartless father, 
knowing nothing, seeing nothing of the tragedy that is going 
on before his eyes, unconscious from first to last how deeply 
she has been wounded, and still treating her merely as a tool. 

'' How now, Ophelia ! 
Yott need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said ; 
We heard it all.** 

He and the king had only eyes and ears for Hamlet ; and so 
she drifts away from them into a shoreless " sea of troubles," 
unheeded and unmissed. 

We see her once again, playing a sort of automaton part in 
the play-soene — sitting patiently, watchfully, with eyes only 
for the poor stricken one who asks to lay his head upon 'her 
lap. Tou see, in the little that passes between them, how 
gently she treats her wayward, smitten lover. And then, 
having no due to his trouble, no thread by which to link 
it with the past, she is scared away, with the rest, on the 
poisoning of Gonzago, at what appears to be a fresh outbreak 
of Hamlet's malady. By this time her own misery and 
desolation will have come fully home to her — ^her wounded 

20 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

heart, her wrecked happiness must be more than the young, 
unaccustomed spirit can stand up against. She is not likely, 
after her previous experience, to seek solace in her father's 
sympathy: nor is hers a nature to seek it anywhere. If 
found, it must come to her by the way. The queen is, by 
this 'time, wrapped up in her own griefs — ^inclined to confess 
herself to Heaven, repent what's past. ''0 Hamlet! thou 
hast deft my heart in twain. . . . What shall I do ? " She 
is grieved enough for Ophelia when she sees her '' distract," 
but has had no time to waste upon her amid her own numer- 
ous fast-growing cares — not even, as it seems, to break to 
her the news of her father's deatL There might have been 
some drop of comfort, if she had spoken to her of Hamlet and 
told her, as she told the king, " He weeps for what is done ! " 
As it was, most likely, in the usual marvel-loving way of com- 
mon people, the news of Polonius's death by Hamlet's hand 
was conveyed to Ophelia's ears hurriedly, without any prepara- 
tion, by her attendants. Shock upon shock ! The heart already 
stricken, the young brain undisciplined in life's storms, and in 
close and subtle sympathy with him who was her very life, she 
catches insensibly the infection of his mind's disease, her wits 
go wandering after his, and, like him, she falls down — " quite, 
quite down." One feels the mercifulness of this. The " sweet 
Heavens," to which she had appealed to help Hamlet, had 
helped her ! Her mind, in losing memory, loses the remem- 
brance of all die woful past, and goes back to her childhood, 
with its simple folk-lore and nursery-rhymes. Still, through 
all this, we have tlie indication of dimly remembered wrongs 
and griefs. She says she hears '' there's tricks i' the world, 
and hems, and beats her heart ; . . . speaks things in doubt. 

Ophelia. 21 

that cany but half sense, . . . would make one think there 
mi^t be thought, though nothing sure, yet much unhappily." 
But the deeper suffering — ^ and grief together — can- 
not (perhaps never could) find expression in words. The 
soul's wreck, the broken heart, are seen only by Him who 
knows alL Happily, there is no vulgar comment made upon 
the deep affection which she had so silently cherished — ^no 
rude, pitjring words. ** Oh ! this," says the king, " is the 
poison of deep grief ; it springs all from her father's death." 
Laertes says — 

" rose of May ! 

() Heavens ! is't possible, a young maid's wits 
Should be as mortal as an old man's life ? " 

He comes a little nearer the truth in what follows — 

^ Nature is fine in love : and, where 'tis fine. 
It sends some precious instance of itself 
After the thing it loves." 

But one sees he has not the faintest insight into the real 
cause of her loss of wits. The revenge he seeks upon Hamlet 
is for his father — 

^ His means of death, his obscure funeral — 
No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o'er his bones. 
No noble rite, nor formal ostentation — 
Cry to be heard, as 'twere from heaven to earth, 
That I must call't in question." 

A matter of family pride in Laertes, as well as grief for his 
father's loss. Then at her grave, he says — 

" Oh, treble woe 
Fall ten times treble on that cursM head, 
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense 
Deprived thee of ! " 





2 2 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Only ''when they shall meet at compt" will even Hamlet 
know the grief he has brought upon, the wrong he has done 
to, this deep and guileless spirit. So far as we see, he has 
indeed blotted her from his mind as a " trivial fond record." 
He is so self-centred, so wrapped up in his own suflGsring, 
that he has no thought to waste on the delicate girl whom 
he had wooed with such a " fire of love," and had taught to 
listen to his most honeyed vows. He casts her from him 
like a worthless weed, without a word of explanation or a 
quiver of remorse. Let us hope that when he sees her grave, 
his conscience stings him; but beyond ranting louder than 
Laertes about what he would do for her sake — and she itad ! 
—there is not much sign of his love being worthy, at any 
time, of the sweet life lost for it 

Perhaps you will think that, in the fulness of my sym- 
pathy for Ophelia, I feel too little for Hamlet. But this is 
not really so. One cannot judge Hamlet's actions by ordi- 
nary rules. He is involved in the meshes of a ruthless destiny, 
from which by nature and temperament he is powerless to 
extricate himself. In the infirmity of a character which 
expends its force in words and shrinks from resolute action, 
he unconsciously drags down Ophelia with him. They are 
the victims of the same inexorable fate. I could find much 
to say in explanation and in extenuation of the shortcom- 
ings of one upon whom a task was laid, which he of all men, 
by the essential elements of his character, seemed least fitted 
to accomplish. 

But you see I only touch upon his character, so far as it 
bears upon Ophelia, on what he is and has been to her. 
Before the story begins, he has offered her his love ''in 

Ophelia. 23 

honourable fashioiL" Then we hear from her of the silent 
interview which so affirights her. After this, when for the 
fint time we see them together, he treats her as only a mad- 
man could, and in a way which not even his affectation of mad* 
ness can excuse. Again, in the play-scene which follows, the 
same wilfulness, even insolence, of manner is shown to her. 
Now, whatever his own troubles, perplexities, heart*breaks, 
might be, it is hard to find an apology for such usage of one 
whose heart he could not but know that he had won. He is 
even tenderer, more considerate, to his mother, whoin he thinks 
so wanton and so guilty, than to this young girl, whom he 
has "importuned with love," and ''given countenance to 
his speech with almost all the holy vows of heaven." 

I cannot, therefore, think that Hamlet comes out well in 
his relations with Ophelia. I do not forget what he says 
at her grave: — 

^ I loved Ophelia ; forty thousand brothers 
Gonld not, with all their quantity of love, 
Make up my sum ! ** 

But I weigh his actions against his words, and find them 
wanting. The veiy language of his letter to Ophelia, which 
Tolonius reads to the king and queen, has not the true ring 
iu it It comes from the head, and not from the heart— it is 
a string of euphuisms, which almost justifies Laertes' warning 
to his sister, that the "trifling of Hamlet's favour" is but 
"the perfume and suppliance of a minute." Hamlet loves, 
I have always felt, only in a dreamy, imaginative way, with 
a love as deep, perhaps, as can be felt by a nature fuller of 
thought and contemplation than of sympathy and passion. 

exr?; jrjmnii ^car 

* l^ imm 

MfC itof iS»^, 

i4ii|^ fitU it li%«<«i, ^ 9«7 ail ruuuHT sui 
^hmlei^ in. ^s^mcr? fbntunii. qa- bo' ibdfaer » seev^ 
in bf Imv 9Mi^, ^ wluHa ihe uii «■£ Qdra& 
<^«iiCij; that kit; ifamU ' konw <)< icL . . . I 
(mC w^wp, t^ tbmk ciui7 ^UMdd kr hfnL f cne oobi gpnnBL** 
TImmi h#^ eaa ItmAii ia \aa hendLsm obs tk^ knui jiamam, 
Um ir/^yk ^ Iryre» fA width m hex ftm dam he had imoL a» 
fip$amff, "O rrm^ f4 Maj! dtxr madd, Had shget svecc 
(pf^MsL ' "* Kilt tti^ fmikfi are gone wiiicfc woold oBoe ksve 
If^tsU^ Umm kind w^>rdji. H« hat pasKd out of Iicr menuKT. 
#rrini an irfi« tiad paiM^ omt of his, when he wss * Umliiig dhe 
yrimvmh path of dalliance" in sonnT Fnnee. :9ie has 
tUf tfi/ifigfft tmt Ui bnrf the dead — A^ dead Ion — hgx old 
fathid" Ukinfi iiut ontwarrl fr/rm of it Eren the iowos 
him if^htsrtA havn little beaatj or sweetni 
f'^r r^nijtiitmifice ; praj you, love, remember:" he has said 
)m iMfVifr xavi? her anght ! '' I loved you not " — ^" me," for 
(inmAniUm ; fennel, and crilumbines — a daisy, the only pleas- 
ant ftinri^r -with jfunnuiH Iftr thoughts. Violets she would 
((Ivit, };iit ('JHUMiA. "They withered all" with her dead love. 
To OphiOin'M tn)atrn(mt of her brother in this scene, I 
vmiiiiriKl U) givn ft charact<;r which I cannot well describe, 
hilt whifJi, AM I Uyiik care it should not be obtrusive, and only 

Ophelia. 25 

as a part of the business of the scene, I felt sure that my 
great master, the actor-author, would not have objected. I 
tried to give not only his words, but, by a sympathetic inter- 
pretation, his deeper meaning — a meaning to be apprehended 
only by that sympathy which arises in, and is the imagination 
of, the heart. 

When Laertes approaches Ophelia, something in his voice 
and look brings back a dim, flitting remembrance ; she gives 
him of her flowers, and motions him to share in the obsequies 
she is paying. When her eyes next fall upon him, she asso- 
ciates him somehow with the '' tricks i' the world." A faint 
remembrance comes over her of his warning words, of the 
shock they gave her, and of the misery which came so soon 
afterwards. These she pieces together with her '' half sense," 
and thinks he is the cause of all. She looks upon him with 
doubt, even aversion; and, when he would approach her, 
shrinks away with threatening gestures and angry looks. All 
this was shown only at intervals, and with pauses between — 
mostly by looks and slight action — a fitful vagueness being 
indicated throughout The soul of sense being gone, the sweet 
mind had become " such stuff as dreams are made of." The 
body bore some resemblance to the rose of May ; but it was 
only as the casket without the jeweL Nothing was left there 
of the thoughtful, reticent, gentle Ophelia. The unobtrusive 
cahn which had formerly marked her demeanour had changed 
to waywardness. The forcing her way into the presence of 
the queen, where she had been used to go only when called, 
clamouring for her will, and with her winks, nods, and gestures, 
" strewing dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds," teUs 
with a terrible emphasis how all is changed, and how her 

26 Shakespeare s Female Characters. 

reason, too, has become ^ like sweet bells jangled, out of tune 
and harsh." 

Poc^* rose of May! Who does not give a sigh, a sob of 
grief, at miserable Gertrude's beautiful account of the watery 
death of this fragile bud, cut down by a cold spring storm, 
before her true midsummer had arrived ? She sings her own 
requiem, and carries the flowers of her innocence along with 
her to the end. like the fabled swan, with her death-song on 
her lipB, she floats unconsciously among the water-lilies, till 
the kindly stream embraces and takes her to itself, and to 
"that blessed last of deaths, where death is dead." 

Dear friend, these are little better than rough notes. I 
have written much, yet seem to have said nothing. " Piece 
out my imperfections with your thoughts." 

Yours always aflFectionately, 


Tb Miss GfeRALDiirs E. Jkwbbuby. 



P E T I A. 

1, issa 

" In B«linaiit ii ■ ladj richly hft" 

HI* is such a pleasure to me, dear friend, to do 
anjthii^ to beguile your thoughts from the 
pain and weariness of your sick-bed, tliat X will 
tiy at once to cany out your wish, and put 
on paper some of the ideas which have guided 
me in representiDg Portia. Tour letter tells me tiiat she is 
"one of your great heroines," and Uiat you desire to hear 
aboat her meet of all I am very glad to know you hold 
her to be a " real, typical, great lady and woman." Iliis is 
my own idea. I hare always classed her with Vittoria Col- 

30 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

onna, Cassandra I\adele/and women of that stamp; andl have 
loved her all the more, perhaps, that from the days of Shake- 
speare to our own the stage hais.done her but scanty justice. 

But it is ofv little moment to donsid^ how -far away fvom 
Shakespeare has been the Portia of the English stage, as we 
gather from its annals. Bather should we try to form a clear 
and definite conception of her character, and of her influence 
upon the main incidents of the play, by a conscientious study 
of her in the leaves of the great master's ** unvalued book." 
This, then, is how she pictures herself to my mind. 

I have always looked upon her as a perfect piece of Nature's 
handiwork. Her character combines all the graces of the 
richest womanhood with the strength of purpose, the vdse 
helpfulness, and sustained power of the noblest manhood. 
Indeed, in this instance, Shakespeare shows us that it is the 
woman's keener wit and insight which see into and overcome 
the difficulty which has perplexed the wisest heads in Venice. 
For, without a doubt, as it seems to me at least, it is to her 
cultivated and bright intelligence, and not alone to the learned 
Bellario, her cousin, that Bassanio is indebted for the release 
of his friend Antonio. * " , 

She comes before us at a time when, like another sweet 
Italian lady, she has ''seen no age, nor known 'no -sorrow." 
Alas for the sad fate which awaits poor Desdemona! Bnt 
Portia has known no sorrow while she is before us, and We 
leave her in the gratified joy of having not only given to her 
husband, " her house, her servants, and herself," but of having 
also, by her fine intelligence, rescued and restored to him his 
best-loved friend and kinsman. 

To know how she has been able to accomplish this, we must 

Portia. 31 

go tMtek to her youth. I think of her then as the oheriahed 
child of a noble father — a father proud of his child's beauty, and 
of the promise which he sees in her of rare gifts both of mind 
and heart. These gifts he spares no pains to foster. He is 
himself no ordinary man. He anticipates the danger to which 
the beautiful and wealthy heiress may be exposed ; and it was 
by one of those " good inspirations " which, as Nerissa says, 
** holy men have at their death," that he fixed upon the device 
of the three caskets, "whereof who chooses his meaning, 
chooses" his beloved daughter. 

From the first his aim has been to train her to succeed him 
in his high position. With this view he has surrounded her 
with aU that is beautiful in art and ennobling in study, and 
placed her in the society of scholars, poets, soldiers, statesmen, 
the picked and noblest minds of her own and other lands. 
Amid this throng of honoured guests, not the least honoured, 
we may be sure, was the learned " cousin, Dr Bellario." This 
cousin of hers we may suppose to have been a constant visitor 
at princely Belmont, and, indeed, to have been her instructor 
in jurisprudence — a not unfitting branch of the future heiress 
of Belmont's education. One can imagine how the girl Portia 
would rush to him for help in her youthful perplexities, and 
bow charmed he must have been to see the hopeful dawning 
of Uiat 

" Intuitive decision of a bright 
And thorough-edged intellect," 

of which she was afterwards to give so signal a proof. It is 
obvious, at any rate, that she took an interest in his pursuits. 
Perhaps they have, even in those early days, "turned over 
many books together," and so she may have in some measure 

32 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

tmconsciously fitted herself for the great task which awaited 
her in the future. 

Her father may have seen with pleased surprise the bias of 
her mind toward such studies ; and this, as well as her affec- 
tion for her learned teacher, may have led him to take her to 
some of the famous trials of the day, so that when her own 
hour of trial comes, when heart and head must alike be strong, 
and her self-possession is taxed to the uttermost, she knows at 
least the forms of the court, and through no technical igno- 
rance would be likely to betray herself. If this were not 
so, how could she, however assured of her power to overcome 
the Jew, have dared to venture into the presence of such an 
assembly as that " great court of Venice," where any failure 
would have been disastrous, not merely to herself, but to 

Thus richly left, richly endowed, we find her, by her wise 
father's will, not allowed to "choose one nor refuse none," 
but forced to submit to be wooed, and sought by '' renowned 
suitors" "whom the four winds blow in from every coast" 
She feels this to be hard ; but so deep is her reverence for 
her father, that she has schooled herself to bow implicitly 
to his will. " If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die as 
chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner of my 
father's will" She tells us, in her own playful way, how 
little the various " suitors who are already come " have won 
upon her — the Neapolitan prince who loves, and "doth 
noUiing but talk of his horse"; the young county Palatine 
who •• smiles not," " doth nothing but frown," and is full of 
'Minmannerly sadness"; the French lord, M. Le Bon, who 
is ''every man in no man," and who, in imitating all, has 

Portia. 33 

ended bj retaining no individuality. But one thing he 
must have been — amusing; and we may be sure that in 
after-times he will be not unfrequently a guest at Bel- 
mont Then, after descriptions of the English, the Scottish, 
and the Gterman suitors, with their peculiarities hit off to a 
nioety, we find her prettily excusing herself by saying, '* In 
troth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker." But there is no 
malice in her mind. Her descriptions make us see the men 
as though they were before us : few words, but vivid pictures. 

The next two we are allowed to judge of for ourselves 
as they come before us with all the pomp of their great 
retinues. The Prince of Morocco bears himself nobly, and 
in ''choosing wrong" shows at least that he rates Portia 
highly : *' Never so rich a gem was set in worse than gold." 
And in taking leave he says: "I have too grieved a heart 
to take a tedious leave: thus losers part." Then arrives 
the Prince of Aragon, who, after refusing to "choose what 
many men desire," and " rank him with the barbarous mul- 
titudes," assumes desert, and chooses the silver casket con- 
taining the fool's head. 

Portia cannot have been an unmoved spectator of these 
scenes. How must her heart and pulse have throbbed 
when in danger of having to accept such unwelcome hus- 
bands! For, although heart-whole, yet she is not "fancy 
free." We learn from her damt d*Jumneur and friend, 
Nerissa, that in her father's time there was one visitor, a 
"Venetian, a scholar, and a soldier," whom Nerissa con- 
sideied of aU men the " best deserving a fair lady." Portia 
responds very briefly, but suggestively: "I remember him 
well; and I remember him worthy of thy praise." Often, 


34 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

DO doabt^ has she wondered why he Ins not pnKnted biiii- 
wAl among her sinton. Unooiiacioiidj, periiaps, the kngnor 
of hope defened speaks in the firat wnds we hear from her 
lipi: '' B]r m]r troth, Neriasa, mj litde bodjr is a-weaij of 
this great world'' The one who she thongl^ mi^ poe- 
sibly have been among the first comers, cranes not at alL 

After the departure of the Prince of Aragon, arrives a 
messenger to announce the coming of the " Lord Bassania" 
He comes at last ! but at what a cost she guesses not We 
know, from his description to Antonio, what he thinks of 
her: ''Oh, she is fair, and foirer than that word, of won- 
drous virtues/' Something stately as well as gracious there 
must have been in her beauty, for he likens her to *' Cato's 
slaughter, Brutus' Portia." In any case, we know that he 
is welcome. In the choosing of the caskets, the "soldier 
and the scholar" also shows himself something of a poet 
\hfH charmingly he apostrophises " fair Portia's counterfeit" ! 

'' What demigod 
Hath come so near creation ? Move these eyes % 
. . . Here are sevei'd lips, 
i'artod with sugar breath : so sweet a bar 
Hlioulfl sunder such sweet friends. Here in her hairs 
Thn |)ai liter plays the spider, and hath woven 
A KoMoii mesh to entrap the hearts of men 
KiMiii«r than gnats in cobwebs : but her eyes — 
flow could he see to do them t having made one, 
Mnthinks it should have power to steal both his, 
And ItMive itself unfumishM." 

And hon\ a« often in other places, I ask myself — ^Were the 
INiinU^rN of Shakospoaro's day grateful to him for what he 
■aid of tlunr artf Or was it then, as too often now, that 
Uio follower of txacli art lived only in his own, looking down 

Portia. 35 

upon and knowing little of all the others ; forgetting that it is 
out of the commingling of all arts that perfect work in any 
one direction must come — as in nature all the elements, all 
the seasons, unite to form the exquisite harmonies and ever- 
varying pictures which we behold and admire in creation ? 

Throughout the early part of the last of the casket scenes, 
what tortures of suspense must Portia have endured, for by 
this time her heart has made its choice! How she must 
try to rest her faith in her father's love, and in the hope 
that the ''good inspiration" which devised this choice of 
caskets, may prove itself in the choice of the one ''who 
shall rightly love ^ ! Hard it is for her to know the right 
casket and yet to give no hint ; and not only not be herself 
" forsworn," but by ordering her suite " to stand aloof," far apart 
from the caskets, to ensure that no accident shall, uninten- 
tionally on the part of a bystander, direct Bassanio's choice ! 

With what a heart-leap she finds him choose the right 
casket! with what excess of happiness 

'* O love, be moderate, allay thy ecstasy, 
In measare rein thy joy, scant this excess ; 
I feel too much thy blessing : make it less, 
For fear I surfeit I " 

Then, when Bassanio comes to claim her according to the 
"gentle scroll," how frankly and nobly she gives him not 
only all he asks — ^herself — ^but her very all — with the desire 
that she could be " trebled twerUy times herself " — " in virtues, 
beauties, Uvings, friends, exceed account" ! 

And now when congratulations are over, and their hap- 
piness appears complete, the evil news arrives, brought by 
Bassanio's friends Solanio, Lorenzo, and Jessica, of the over- 

36 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

throw of Antonio's fortune — ^that all his ventures have failed 
— ^that the time has gone by within which the bond might 
be redeemed, and that nothing can drive the inexorable Jew 
" from the envious plea of forfeiture, of justice, and his bond." 
Thus all at once comes the test which is to show that the 
union of Portia with Bassanio is indeed a " marriage of true 
minds." It is enough that Antonio is the bosom friend of 
Bassanio — "the semblance of his soul" — ^to assure her that 
he is worthy to be hers also. For, in her own words: — 

*' In companionB 
That do converse and waste the time together, 
Whose souls do bear an equal yoke of love, 
There must be needs a like proportion 
Of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit" 

Moreover, what a picture of that friend has Bassanio given ! — 

'* The dearest friend to me, the kindest man ; 
. . . and one in whom 
The ancient Roman honour more appears, 
Than any that draws breath in Italy/' 

At first, Portia evidently does not realise the extent of 
the Jew's malignity. She feels that, at any sacrifice, he 
must be bought over to cancel his bond, and she believes 
that this is possible. After having read Antonio's letter, 
she has but one thought — to hasten Bassanio's departure, 
with ample means to satisfy the Jew. But first she must 
give him the right to use her means as his own; he must 
indeed be lord of all: — 

" First go ¥dth me to church, and call me wife : 
And then away to Venice to your friend." 

During the time, brief as it can be made, of the prepara- 

Portia. 37 

tion for the marriage ceremoDy, Portia will have heard all 
the particulars of the "merry bond"; she will have dis- 
covered that money alone, however squandered, cannot shake 
the obdurate Jew's determination. Accustomed, as I have 
before suggested, by her peculiar training, to look with a 
judicial mind upon serious matters, she, after many ques- 
tionings about its terms, hits by a happy instinct, as I believe, 
upon the flaw in the bond. She will say nothing of this to 
Bassanio; but hurries him away with her wealth to use as his 
own, and then herself hastens towards Venice, after despatch- 
ing a messenger to Bellario, with a letter informing him of 
her approach, as well as of her belief that she has found a 
flaw in the bond, and requesting his presence at the trial 

We find her, before her departure, in the brightest spirits, 
feeling virtually assured of success, and even jesting in her 
new happiness with Nerissa, as to who shaU 

" Prove the prettier fellow of the two, 
And wear her dagger ¥dth a braver grace.'' 

This state of mind, it appears to me, could not have been 
possible, had Portia known what was before her. She is 
at ease, because she is sure of the full sympathy of her 
friend and cousin, Bellario, and counts with confidence on 
his presence in Venice to take the lead in court; and so, 
after giving her house into the care of Lorenzo and Jessica, 
who are to be treated in their absence as Lord Bassanio 
and herself, she goes gaily on to Venice with Nerissa. They 
will have to haste away, for they ''must measure twenty 
miles to-day." 
In the play we see that Portia sends Balthazar, her trusty 

38 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

servant whom she has "ever found honest, true," to Dr 
Bellario with her letter of instructions, and bids him wait 
for her at "the traject,^ the common ferry which trades to 
Venice." But either her mind must have changed, or she 
must have met messengers from Bellario on the road, who 
tell her of his illness and inability to help her in person. 
Consequently, she hurries on to Padua ; but when they meet 
— for that they do meet is certain — all her first joyful an- 
ticipations receive a woful shock. She finds her dear old 
friend grievously sick. What is to be done? There is no 
help near; no time to be lost! The Jew "plies the Duke 
at morning and at night." Bellario's aid, she learns, has been 
summoned already by the Duke as a last resource. In this 
extremity, with no other help at hand, Bellario no doubt pro- 
poses that Portia shall go in his stead, recommended by him 
as a " young doctor of Eome," then visiting him. This must 
be done, or all is lost. Bellario confirms her belief as to the 
flaw in the bond, and furnishes her with his " own opinions " 
upon all the points of law most vital to the question. They 
"turn o'er many books together," and Portia proceeds to 
Venice, furnished, as Bellario writes to the Duke, with the 
Doctor's opinion, "which, bettered with his own learning 
(the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend), goes 
with him, at my importunity, to fill up your Grace's request 
in my stead." All this suggests to me that Portia's eye 
had been the first to see the flaw in the bond, and that her 
own impression had been confirmed by the great lawyer. 

' One of the most persistent errors of the text, carried on from the first 
folio, is " tranect," when Shakespeare evidently wrote " traject," the equivalent 
for "traghetto," the word which may be seen at every ferry in Venice — 
" Traghetto della Salute," &c 

Portia. 39 

Grave and anxious must have been her thoughts as she 
crossed the lagoons by "the common ferry that trades to 
Venice.'' Hers was not a mind, however, to shrink before 
difficulty ; and, confirmed as she has been by the opinion of 
the great doctor of laws, she feels sure of success, if she can 
but be true to herself, and "forget she is a woman." All 
the gay light-heartedness with which she started from Bel- 
mont has vanished under this unexpected aspect of affairs. 
With what trepidation, with what anxious sense of respon- 
sibility, must she find herself engaged in such a task — the 
mark for every eye, the " observed of all observers " ! Nothing 
but her deep love, and grateful happy heart, could sustain 
her through such a triaL To cease to be a woman for the 
time is not so hard, perhaps, to one who has all her life 
been accustomed to a position of command and importance; 
but, in the peculiar circumstances of this case, the effort must 
have been one of extreme difficulty. 

How skilfully, firmly, and gently she begins her task ! We 
may believe that she had some sympathy with Shylock. She 
has lately made his undutiful daughter welcome, because she 
is wedded to her husband's friend. She cannot approve of 
Jessica's uncalled-for accusation of her father: — 

" I have heard him swear . . . 
That he would rather have Antonio's flesh, 
Than twenty times the value of the sum 
That he did owe him." 

But with her usual thoughtful kindness she feels for the 
stranger Jewess, and, during her own absence, puts her in 
a position in which her servants must show her all respect 
Jessica must have had, no doubt, a sad enough life after 

40 Shakespearis Female Characters : 

her mother's death. We see that Shylock was not of a 
nature to win love or respect from those immediately about 
him. Meanness and distrust were in the atmosphere which 
he made around him in his home life. Jessica says, "Our 
house is hell." That she can, despite her training, appreciate 
goodness and virtue, may be inferred from what she says of 
Portia : — 

*' Why, if two gods should play some heavenly match, 
And on the wager lay two earthly women, 
And Portia one, there must be something else 
Pawn'd with the other ; for the poor rude world 
Hath not her fellow." 

Still, I believe Portia to have more sympathy with the 
Jew than with his daughter. She feels for the race that 
has been proscribed, insulted, execrated, from generation to 
generation. She finds some excuse for the deep hereditary 
hate which the Jew has for his Christian oppressor, and for 
his desire of vengeance in the name and for the sake of 
his persecuted tribe. She would have understood his yearn- 
ing for the death of the man who had "disgraced and 
hindered him of half a million"; but not that he himself 
should desire to be the cruel executioner. 

The Duke, in his opening address to Shylock, tells him 
what it is "thought" he will do: — 

*' That thou but lead'st this fiashion of thy malice 
To the last hour of act ; and then, 'tis thought, 
Thoult show thy mercy and remorse more strange 
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty," &c. 

As if the " stony adversary, the inhuman wretch," had been 
keeping up the show of enforcing the letter of his bond out 


Portia. 4 1 

of mere wantonness! The ''gentle answer" expected was 
not likelj to be given after such an appeal: a much less 
merciless adversaiy would not have been moved by it Who 
likes it to be taken for granted that he is going to do a 
good action? — to be told that it is expected? Such an 
appeal would be likely to make even a gentle nature per- 
verse. The treatment of the Jew by the friends of Antonio 
is also little calculated to bend him from his purpose. It 
would only, if possible, harden his heart still more. 

At this point enters the " young doctor of Bome, Ms name 
Balthasar." We may conceive the angry eyes with which 
the Jew looks at him. But, instead of insulting and taunt- 
ing him like the rest, and as he had expected, the stranger 
simply asks if he is Shylock, and says, " Of a strange nature 
is the suit you follow" — thus putting him at his ease, and 
securing Shylock's attention by the assurance "that the 
Venetian law cannot impugn him" in acting as he did. 
Antonio is asked if he confesses the bond. He does confess 
it Then the climax seems to have been reached. The " sotm- 
iking else " is kept in the background imtil every other argu- 
ment has failed. The Jew must now take the initiative. The 
young doctor owns that they are in his power. He is in 
the right — confessed by all to be so; and therefore he can 
afford to be — he '^rniut he mtreifvir The rude, unmannerly 
answer of the Jew, "On what compulsion must I? tell me 
that," is met with grave gentleness. This quality of mercy 
most not be "strained." There is no compulsion in it: of 
its own sweet ¥rill it "droppeth upon the place beneath." 
The blessing it brings is to the giver as well as to the 
receiver: its r^on is beyond and above kingly sceptres; 

42 Shdkespear^s Female Characters : 

it is in the hearts of the highest ones of earth, and is an 
attribute of ''God Himself — his God as well as the 
Christian's — ^the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob! 

In Portia is here embodied the spirit of good, which it is 
her first, her paramount desire, should prevaU over the spirit 
of eviL She would gladly have given largely of her fortune 
to turn Shylock from \i^a cruel purpose — to give him an in- 
sight into the happiness, the blessedness, of showing mercy 
and forgiveness. She who has lately been made so happy in 
her gratified love, what would she not give, out of her full 
heart, to prove her gratitude to the All-Giver, and soften for 
His use, however little that might be, this one human heart ? 

After this sublime appeal, the Jew is again assured of the 
"justice of his plea," so that his sacrifice in giving it up shall 
be the nobler. He is only asked to /'mitigate" it: at some 
(perhaps not far-off) time he may have to pray to his God for 
mercy, and the thought of that same needful prayer should 
surely teach him " to render the deeds of mercy." This, alas ! 
only brings from his stubborn heart the cry : — 

" My deeds upon my head ! I crave the law, 
The penalty and forfeit of my bond." 

Then the temptation of money is held out to him. The loan 
is to be paid thrice — ^nay, "ten times" over. To no avail. 
Portia, as a last resource, tries to bring before his mind's eye 
the horror of the deed — ^the gash, the quivering flesh, which is 
to be " cut off nearest the merchant's heart " — ^the seat of life. 
She sees in imagination the fainting, dying man, and, with a 
shudder, turns to Shylock, and bids him at least have by a 
surgeon to stop the wounds, " lest he do bleed to death." No, 

Portia. 43 

not even that " Tis not in the bond." He will not do even 
** thus much for charity." Now all is dear. 

At this point, I have always felt in the acting that my 
desire to find extenuations for Shylock's race and for himself 
leaves me, and my heart grows almost as stony as his own. I 
see his fiendish nature fully revealed. I have seen the knife 
sharpened to cut quickly through the flesh ; the scales brought 
forward to weigh it ; have watched the cruel, eager eyes, all 
strained and yearning to see the gushing blood welling from 
the aide ''nearest the heart," and gloating over the fancied 
agonies and death-pangs of his bitter foe. This man-monster, 
this pitiless savage nature, is beyond the pale of humanity : it 
must be made powerless to hurt. I have felt that with him 
the wrongs of his race are really as nothing compared with 
his own remorseless hate. He is no longer the wronged and 
sufiforing man ; and I longed to pour down on his head the 
** justice " he has clamoured for, and will exact without pity. 

The Jew has been probed to the uttermost. It is now clear, 
beyond all question, that it is Antonio's lift which this " merry 
bond " is intended to purchase, and that nothing short of it will 
satisfy Shylock's " lodged hate." He has by his own confes- 
sion brought his life within the compass of the law. Then, 
like a crushing avalanche, slowly but surely sweeps down 
upim him the avenging, much-forbearing power, the "«>me- 
Mmg eUe" which has hitherto been held in hand by the 
young doctor. Then the blood, which '' is not in the bond," 
which has not been bargained for, flows in to wash away the 
bond (better now it had been torn up, as Portia wished), and 
to bring on the murderous Jew his just punishment, the for- 
feitare of life, wealth, substance, all. Thus the blood which 

44 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

he had so yearned to shed, but has oyerlooked in the bond, is 
ordained to be the Nemesis which shall overwhelm and destroy 
him, sweep him from his pride of place among his tribe, rob 
him of half his dearly-gotten wealth, and take away his desire 
to accumulate more, by forcing him to '' render it upon his 
death to the gentleman who lately stole his daughter." 

Blow upon blow ! For now as a crowning shame the Jew 
must go through the form of being made a Christian* We 
may be sure that Portia would not have included this in the 
judgment which she pronounces as the mouthpiece of the coiirt. 
It is Antonio, who, when asked by her, " What mercy can you 
render him, Antonio ? " after disposing of his substance, and 
requesting that the fine should be reduced from the whole to 
one-half of his goods, closes with the stipulation that " for this 
favour he presently become a Christian." This looks like a 
piece of cruelty, unworthy of Antonio's character. Can he 
believe that the mere name of Christian could ** soften that 
— than which what's harder ? — ^his Jewish heart " ? And yet 
we cannot accuse Antonio of malignity. '* A kinder gentle- 
man treads not the earth," say his friends and those who 
know him best We must not take Shylock's report of him. 
Shylock speaks out of the hate he bears him, because of his 
interference with what he calls his " well-won thrift." An- 
tonio "has brought down the rate of usance," helped the poor, 
wrested from his grasp despairing wretches whom he would 
have stripped of their all, then thrown aside to starve or die 
B& they might 

^ He seeks my life ; his reason well I know : 
I oft delivei^d from his forfeitures 
Many that have at times made moan to me : 
Therefore he hates me." 

Portia. 45 

When Antonio asks that Shylock shall be made a Ghris- 

tian» we most remember that he himself has only just escaped 

the sharpened knife which, in imagination, had been already 

tasting his life-blood. Still, even this would not make 

wilfully cruel this 

" Kindest man, 
The best-condition'd and unwearied flpirit 
In doing coarteeies.'' 

We must take his demand as a proof of the state of feeling 
which prevailed at the time in which he lived — a time when 
Christians, even the best of them, had inherited the worst 
prqudices against the Jews. Their ancient misdemeanours, 
their exactions, their usurious practices, their oppressions, all 
were remembered against them, while no voice was raised in 
extenuation or excuse. All agreed in despising and execrat- 
ing this vindictive and extortionate race. Antonio had seen 
Shylock exercising his craft and turning it to the vilest uses. 
Perhaps he thinks, in the spirit of his age, that forcing him to 
be a Christian may work some miraculous change in his heart 
We must at least believe that he did not put this indignity 
upon him in mere wantonness of spirit. 

After declining the Duke's courtesies, on the plea of the 
necessity for her immediate return to Padua, Portia, in her 
baste to be home a day before her husband, is not inclined to 
linger on the road, even to receive, as the young doctor, the 
thanks of Antonio and her husband ; but, seeing the ring on 
Bassanio's finger, the thought passes across her mind of test- 
ing how deeply he values it. After the long strain upon 
her brain^ the sense of relief which follows the deliverance of 
Antonio must have vent in some new channel. The " mar- 

46 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

riage-bells '' which for the first time ring in her heart must 
not yet be heard by others. She must keep up and carry 
out her self-imposed character to the end. So, as she cannot 
take gold, she asks Antonio for his gloves, which she will 
wear for his sake — gloves were dainties in those days — and 
Bassanio for his ring. The latter request being refused, the 
doctor affects to be slightly indignant, refuses to accept aught 
else, and takes a hasty leave. The ring is sent after him, as 
we know, at Antonio's intercession, and the derk despatched 
for the Jew's signature to the deed, which is to "be well 
welcome " to Lorenzo — and the journey to Belmont is b^un. 

Here messengers must have overtaken Portia on her 
way back (but not, as on her journey to Venice, messengers 
bearing ill news), with letters which make her aware of the 
good fortune of Antonio, in that " three of his argosies have 
richly come to harbour suddenly." Portia has presumed a 
little too much on having the start of Bassanio by many 
hours, and, as we learn from Stephano, she has strayed about 
by holy crosses on her way home — 

" Where she kneels and prays 
For happy wedlock hours." 

Thus it is that, notwithstanding all the means at her disposal, 
and the help which she could command from her trusty ser- 
vant Balthazar, Portia arrives so immediately before her 
husband, who was not likely to pause by the way, that she 
has barely time to warn her household to take no notice of 
her having been absent, when a trumpet proclaims the tidings 
of the near approach of Bassanio and his suite. At once she 
welcomes him "Aom«," and bids Antonio welcome to ''our 

Portia. 47 

hauie"; and thus graciously makes him feel that it is only 
as the mistress of his friend's house that she bids him 

What a scene is before them ! Nature welcomes them in 
the tranquil moonlight, so congenial to their own thoughts 
and wearied senses ; and even the weight of their excess of 
happiness is lifted from them by the pleasant little embar- 
rassment caused by the parting with the rings, which Portia 
has happily devised to bring about the discovery that she was 
the doctor and Nerissa the clerk. 

Think, too, of the exquisite contrast between the opening 
of the play and its close. It begins in the blaze of garish 
day, in the bustling streets of Venice. Yet are the first 
words of the great Venetian merchant tinged with sadness — 

" In truth, I know not why I am so sad " — a sadness pro- 
phetic of the coming storm in which he was so soon to be 
involved by his devotion to his friend. It closes far away 
from the great city, in a garden faintly lighted by the moon, 
as she pales before the coming morn, no trace of sadness left 
in the merchant's heart — for have not his devotion, his very 
danger, led to the happiest issues ? 

And now the newly-made husband, who left Belmont in 
the deepest dejection and full of anxiety for his best friend, 
returns to it with that friend, all trouble over, and is wel- 
comed by its mistress as its lord. This friend's safety he 
owes also to the noble lady, who before had given him so 
generously her house, her servants, and herself. The deeds 
of his after-life must speak for him, for she had indeed 
" bereft him of all words." And so the curtain falls, Portia 
having strewed blessings upon all around her. 

48 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

But I could never leave my characters when the curtain 
fell and the audience departed. As I had lived with them 
through their early lives, so I also lived into their futura 
I saw Bassanio and Antonio despatched by Portia the next 
day to Padua to talk over with her cousin Bellario the criti- 
cal scene so lately gone through, and bearing with them her 
ii^junctions and fond messages to bring the sick man back, if 
possible, to be nursed into health at Belmont 

For Portia I have always dreamed out a holier and far 
more difficult task. I do not believe that such a woman as I 
conceive her to have been would leave the despised, deserted 
Jew to his fate. When she finds that even Antonio's " mercy " 
is not of the kind to satisfy her woman's heart, she vows to 
herself that, out of her own great happiness, and in aboimding 
gratitude for it, she will devote herself to the all but impos- 
sible task of converting this ''inexorable Jew." She goes 
alone to his wretched, lonely home, to which he has been 
accompanied only by the execrations of the mob. These still 
ring in his sick ears as he lies there stunned, bewildered, 
defeated, deserted. But sharper, more harrowing than all, 
are his self - upbraidings that he should have left a loop- 
hole in the bond by which the hated Christian merchant 
has escaped. In his rage, in his bitter self -accusations, he 
lashes himself into a state of frenzy. If left alone much 
longer to these wild, mad moods, he might destroy himself. 
But, before he has time for this, comes to his door, and will 
not be denied, this noble lady. He knows her not, roughly 
enough forbids her entrance ; but with gentle force, and with 
the charm of her winning manners and noble and gracious 
presence, she contrives to gain an entrance. It is little she 

Portia. 49 

can do in her first visits. StiU she repeats them, bringing 
wine and oil and nourishment for the sick body, and sacred 
ointment for the bruised mind. The reviled, despised Jew 
finds himself for the first time (for, oh, so long!) tended, 
thought for, cared for. Why should this be ? Never has this 
been since his early days, — since his beloved Leah left him, 
perhaps in his early manhood, when the grief at her loss 
hardened his heart Her gentle presence by his side through 
life might have softened down his worst passions, which were 
only aggravated by the blow sustained in her loss. His 
young daughter may have resembled her mother in feature, 
but not in character ; he has therefore cared little for her — 
put no faith, no trust in her. The Jew would find in Portia 
a likeness to his beautiful Leah; would, in his weakness, 
fancy the tender sympathetic eyes, looking so gently on him, 
were hers ; would hear her voice when " in accents very low," 
and with " a most silver flow " 

^ Of subtle-paced counsel in distress, 
Right to the heart and brain, though undescried, 
Winning its way with extreme gentleness, 
Through all the outworks of suspicious pride,*' 

she sought first to draw from him a slow permission for her 
visits. Then on the Jew's side would come a looking forward 
to their recurrence ; then a hoping, wishing for them, until 
gradually she had drawn from him from time to time the 
stoiy of his life, of his woes, of his own wrongs, of the wrongs 
of his race, of his sweet lost wife ; of his ungrateful daughter, 
who in her flight took not only his ducats, his jewels, but the 
ring given him by Leah, " when he was a bachelor." We can 
imagine what a sympathising ear was lent to all his tale ; how 


50 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

she gave him " a world of sighs " — ^this man, who had through 
life chiefly met with curses and execrations. We can imagine, 
too, how, little by little, she reminded him of words which 
somewhere, at some time — but little heeded then — he had 
heard tell of that " quality of mercy," " which droppeth as 
the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath " — that 
place being his poor, withered heart. He would see now " the 
deeds of mercy." He would not recognise the hand which, 
as the " reverend doctor," had dealt out such uncompromising 
''justice." But he would begin to feel that, had he gained 
his cruel will, and his "deeds been on his head" — ^had he 
been let to vse that hungry knife, — there would have been 
''the smell o' the blood "under his nostrils day and night; 
and that same blood would have been upon his soul for ever. 
Not even the rites of his fathers could have washed it away ! 

These are his ottm reflections; not forced upon him by 
Portia. He will recognise her life of self-denial. He will 
know that with every luxury, every happiness around her, 
she leaves them all continually to sit with, and comfort, and 
console his sick body and broken spirit. How can he show 
that he is grateful ? He will do as she wishes ; will see the 
daughter on whom he has poured his curse; will put his 
blessing in the place of it ; will even look upon her Christian 

But I have imagined both daughter and husband much 
altered, purified. Lorenzo, on reflection, has been ashamed, 
not perhaps of stealing the Jew's daughter, but of accepting 
the stolen ducats and jewels which she brought with her, and 
would be longing, if he dared, to make restitution and confess 
his meanness. Jessica, under the roof of Portia, and within 

Portia. 51 

the sphere of her noble influence, could naot fail to grow 
better and purer. She early shows herself capable of appre- 
ciating Portia's character when Lorenzo asks her, '' How dost 
thou like the Lord Bassanio's wife ? " 

" Past all expresfiing. It is very meet 
The Lord Bassanio live an upright life : 
For having such a blessing in his lady, 
He finds the joys of heaven here on earth." 

Aa her character improves, becoming chastened and ennobled, 
she will reflect upon the graceless step she took in leaving 
her old, lonely father, whatever might have been his faults, 
and in robbing him, too. How can she look for happiness in 
her wedded life, she who has commenced it so im worthily ? 
Oh that she could make reparation! She must know the 
sentence passed upon her father in the court at Venice. How, 
then, can she be happy ? And so some day, permission being 
obtained by Portia, she may be seen at the feet of the old 
man, there sobbing out her grief and her contrition ; and he 
will remember that he made her ''home a hell," and look 
gently upon her. Will this be for liim the first taste of the 
blessedness of mercy ? '' It blesseth him that gives and him 
that takes." 

I think that the Jew will not live long. His body and 
mind have been too sorely bruised and shaken. But Portia's 
spell will be upon him to the end. His last looks will be 
upon the eyes which have opened his, and shown him the 
"light to lighten his darkness"; and he who was despised, 
reviled, and himself at war with all men, will now have felt 
the happiness of bestowing forgiveness, and the blessed hope 
of being himself forgiven. 

52 Shakespearis Female Characters : 

And so I have thought out Portia. She will have, like 
other mortals, sorrows, sufferings, troubles. But she will 
bear them humbly, patiently, bravely. The hand and heart 
will ever remain open to help and comfort others. She will 
retain her gay, bright spirit. She will have always her gra- 
cious, attractive manners, and will spread around her in her 
home an atmosphere which will make Belmont an earthly 
paradise to those fortunate ones who are welcomed to it 
But only her husband will know oZZ her winning goodness : 
for him will be kept the inner life, the insight into her 
heart of hearts ; to him alone she will be the friend of friends, 
" the perfect wife." 

Much of what I have written you will perhaps think 
fanciful But this is how Portia has pictured herself to my 
thoughts. Dear friend, does it at all explain to you the 
secret of what you so kindly call my " wonderful silent acting 
in the casket scene" ? 

Ever affectionately yours, 


To Miss Geraldine E. Jewsbubt. 

[One or two of my friends, who have seen this letter when 
printed only for private circulation, and on whose opinion 
I place a high value, have objected to my " dream " about 
Portia's conduct toward Shylock, after the curtain drops, as 
being conceived too much in the feeling of the present centuiy. 
I have, therefore, reconsidered the matter, but cannot give 
up my first impression. 

Portia. 53 

Shakespeare, in the self-defence which he puts into the 
Jew's mouth, says all he can for him. In his day, with the 
strong antagonism felt toward the Jews by his audiences, 
he would not, whatever he felt, have dared to say more in 
their favour ; and I always maintain that Shakespeare wrote 
his plays most distinctly for audiences, and not for closet 
readers merely, although he shows the marvel of his genius 
in being so fitted for both, that each claims him as their own. 
But I believe that, as he foresaw the woman who was to 
simulate the doctor, and put into Portia's heart that *' most 
excellent gift of charity," and into her mouth that divine 
speech of mercy, so he would not blame me if I thought 
her one of the exceptional beings who have lived in all ages, 
who have gone out of and beyond the bounded present, and 
acted the part which, in our own age, though always exciting 
admiration, would in no way create surprise. 

With the essence of Christianity within her, the Jew, who 
had by the enforced change of his creed become an outcast even 
from his tribe, was the nearest to her pity. His merciless nature 
when outraged could only be appeased by, as it were, dipping 
his revenge, when opportunity came, in the blood, and watch- 
ing the slow, torturing death-throes of his foe. Where, then, 
could such a creature find a resting-place, when thwarted 
in the line of action which even the law of his land, he had 
been assured, could not impugn? Never could despair be 
deeper than his, and never was help more needed. And who 
so fit to give help as the one who had unconsciously brought 
all this misery on his head ? 

Shylock's money, as Portia knew, had been borrowed to 
bring the lover of her choice to woo and win her. His 

54 Shakespeare s Female Cliaracters. 

daughter had been induced to leave her home, and take 
with her his precious gold and jewels, by the friend and with 
the knowledge of her husband, and by that husband's wish 
had been made welcome to her home. Portia knows all this 
if the Jew does not ; and, knowing this, would not her heart 
be the first to think of and turn in pity towards the miserable 
and forsaken outcast ? To her he was as no common Jew. 
His means as usurer had helped to perfect her life. Could 
her happiness be unalloyed while another suffered shame 
and misery, no matter whether deserved or not, because of 
her ? I still " dream " that it could not, and believe that, 
quietly and privately, as her high station permitted, she 
might have done what no other dared, or indeed perhaps 
cared to do. 

81 Omslow Square, London.] 




BsniTTsiuo, KIAB Llamoolun, Nortb Wilis, 
SipUnbrr 10, 1880. 

" Mj Itir wurior." " Oh, she wm bo»veiilj true I " 

, my dear friend, I will try to gratify your 
wish, that I should put before you in words 
the Desdemona that was in my heart and 
luind in the days when I was first called to 
^Tsonate her upon the stage. It was among 
my earliest efforts, and I was then a very yoimg girl; but 
she had been long for me a heroine into whose life I had 
entered with a passionate sympathy which I cannot even 
now recall without emotion. In the gallery of heroes and 
heroines which my young imagination had fitted up for my 



58 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

daily and nightly reveries, Desdemona filled a prominent place. 
J How could it be otherwise ? A being so bright, so pure, so 

• unselfish, generous, courageous — so devoted in her love, so 

' unconquerable in her all^iance to her " kind lord," even while 

\ dying by his hand; and all this beauty of body and mind 

blasted by the machinations of a soulless villain, who " out 
of her own goodness" made the net that enmeshed her too 
credulous husband and her absolutely guileless self! 

The manner, too, of her death increased her hold upon my 

imagination. Owing, I suppose, to delicate health and the 

weak action of my heart, the fear of being smothered haunted 

; me continually. The very thought of being in a crowd, of 

any pressure near me, would fill me with terror. I would 
give up any pleasure rather than ffuje it. Thus it was that, 
owing to this favourite terror of my own, the manner of Des- 
demona's death had a fearful significance for me. That she 
should, in the midst of this frightful death-agony, be able 
not only to forgive her torturer, but to keep her love for him 
unchanged, was a height of nobleness surpassing that of all 
the knights and heroes I had ever heard or read of. Hers, 
too, was "the pang without the palm." Juliet, Cordelia, 
Imogen, Hermione, sufferers as they were, had no such suffer- 
ing as this. For hers was the supreme anguish of dying, 
while the one in whose regard she desired to stand highest 
believed her tainted and impure ! To a loving, noble woman, 
what fate could be more terrible than this ? 

Of course I did not know in those days that Desdemona 
is usually considered a merely amiable, simple, yielding 
creature, and is also generally so represented on the stage. 
This is the last idea that would have entered my head. To 

Desdemona. 59 

me she was in all things worthy to be a hero's bride, and 
deserving the highest love, reverence, and gratitude from the 
noble Moor. "Glentle'' she was, no doubt (the strong are 
naturally gentle) — and Othello in one place calls her so. But 
he uses the epithet in the Italian and old English sense, 
implying that union of nobility of person and of disposition 
which shows itself in an unconscious grace of movement and 
of outward appearance. This was what I imagine was in 
Wordsworth's mind when speaking of '' the gentle lady mar- 
ried to the Moor " ; and, when he discoursed on that favour- 
ite theme on which, he says, " right voluble I am," I can 
&ncy that he drew his heroine in much the same lines as 
those in which she presented herself to my young imagina- 
tion. I cannot think he would have singled her out in his 
&mous sonnet, had he not thought her as brave as she was 
generous, as high of heart as she was sweet of nature, or had 
he r^arded her as a soft, insipid, plastic creature, ready to 
do any one's bidding, and submit placidly to any ill-usage 
from mere weakness and general characterless docility. Oh, 
no ! Such creatures do not win the love of the purest and 
noblest, the attachment and admiration of all. 

It was well for me that I never saw Desdemona, or indeed 
any of Shakespeare's heroines, on the stage, before I had to 
impersonate them myself. I was thus hampered by no tradi- 
tions, and my ideals were not interfered with by recollections 
of what others had done. I struggled, as best I could, to 
give expression to the characters as I had thought them out 
lor myself, looking only at the text, and ignoring all commen- 
tators and critics, who perplexed but did not help me. Crude 
and imperfect as my conceptions were — and no one found 

6o Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

this out sooner than myself, as time and experience widened 
and C50rrected them — they yet seemed to make themselves 
felt by my audiences, who, to my surprise and delight, were 
always most kind and indulgent to me. 

Veiy often I meet people now who tell me they saw my 
first performances, and speak of them as though they were 
great triumphs. (You ask me to talk of myself, so you see I 
do.) They were better satisfied than I was, because I knew 
that I could do far better with encouragement and practice. 

But ah, how my heart ached when some of the critics flung 
great names at me ! A Siddons, an O'Neill — what could I know 
of them ? How they thought about my heroines — ^for they were 
mine, a part of me — I could not telL Did they look at them 
with the same eyes, think the same thoughts about them, as I 
did ? No one could tell me that. I was only told with what 
grand effect one spoke certain lines, how another looked and 
sobbed and fainted in a certain situation. Fortunately for me, 
the critics then, as now, did not all agree. I was not allowed 
to see the newspapers ; but unkind criticisms are sure to find 
their way somehow, through one channel or another, and to 
make their sting felt. A critic, to be of use, and give a lesson 
worth learning, should point out first what is good — for no 
work worth speaking of at all can be without some good — 
then the faults specified can be listened to in a patient and 
proper spirit 

Happily, however, there were not a few who did not daunt me 
with tales of my predecessors, but encouraged me to persevere in 
my own course, to trust to my own conceptions, and to believe 
that these would work out a more adequate expression as I 
gained a greater mastery of my art Among such, my Desde- 

Desdemona. 6i 

mona was peculiarly welcomed as rescuing the character, as I 
was told, out of the commonplace, and lifting her into her true 
position in the tragedy. This view was especially pressed 
upon me by Mr Elton, the gentleman who acted Brabantio — 
an excellent actor in Mr Macready's picked company, who, 
alas ! was drowned in a shipwreck a year or two later. He 
told me that my Desdemona was a new creation for him ; that, 
to use his own phrase — and I remember it well — it restored 
the balance of the play by giving her character its due weight 
in the action, so that, as he said, he had then seen the tragedy 
for the first time in its true chiaro-oscuro. Words no less 
encouraging fell from Mr Macready, my Othello. He told me 
my brightness and gaiety in the early happy scenes at Cyprus 
helped him greatly, and that, when sadder, I was not lachry- 
mose ; and, above all, that I added intensity to the last act by 
'' being so difficult to kill.'' Indeed I felt in that last scene 
as if it were a very struggle for my own life. I would not die 
with my honour tarnished, without the chance of disabusing my 
husband's mind of the vile thoughts that clouded it. I felt for 
him as weU as for myself-for I knew what remorse and misery 
would overwhelm him when he came to know how cruelly he 
had wronged me ; and therefore I threw into my remonstrances 
all the power of passionate appeal I could command. 

I recall with gratitude the comfort and instruction for 
which I was indebted to my good friend Brabantio — my 
"cruel father," as I used to call him. He was the kindest 
and gentlest of men ; thoroughly well read, of fine tastes, and 
an accomplished rather than a powerful actor. It seems but 
yesterday that I sat by his side in the green-room at the read- 
ing of Robert Browning's beautiful drama, '* The Blot in the 

62 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

ScatcheoiL" As a rule, Mr Macready always read the new 
plays. But owing, I suppose, to some press of business, the 
task was intrusted on this occasion to the head prompter — a 
clever man in his way, but wholly unfitted to bring out, or 
evcoi understand, Mr Browning's meaning. Consequently, the 
delicate, subtle lines were twisted, perverted, and sometimes 
even made ridiculous in his hands. My " cruel father " was 
a warm admirer of the poet. He sat writhing and indignant, 
and tried by gentle asides to make me see the real meaning 
of the verse. Somehow the mischief proved irreparable ; for 
a few of the actors during the rehearsals chose to continue 
to misunderstand the text, and never took the interest in the 
play which they must have done had Mr Macready read it — 
for he had great power as a reader. I have always thought it 
was in a great measure owing to this contretemps that a play 
so thoroughly dramatic failed, despite its painful story, to 
make the great success which was justly its due.^ 

Kind Mr Elton ! In those cold, cheerless, wintiy days, his 
salutation was always the same: "Well, how does Spring 
Morning ? " And if my eyes and heart were heavy from hav- 
ing heard my bults harshly censured at home, he would say — 
noticing, I suppose, my depressed manner — " So April showers 
have been falling ! " When I asked him to watch and check 
my faults, he positively refused, saying, " I heard already too 
much of them. I must remember I was passing through my 
novitiate — ^not, like most others, before a provincial, but before 
a London audience, and that I must expect to have much to 
learn. But if I kept always thinking of myself and my short- 
comings, I should spoil my style, the charm of which was my 

^ See Appendix, p. 425. 

Desdemona. 63 

self-forgetfulness and power of identifying myself with the 
character I was acting. How was I to be a real Juliet or Des- 
demona if I had my defects always uppermost in my mind ? 
I must trust to their falling away from me by practice in my 
art" He was the more tender, I can now see, partly in con- 
sequence of my extreme sensitiveness and my dissatis&ction 
with my own efforts, and partly from seeing too strong a dis- 
position in Mr Macready to take exception to everything I 
did that was not exactly in accordance with his own notions. 
" My dear, you are entirely wrong in this conception," was a 
phrase constantly in his mouth. The young girl was expected 
to take the same view as the ripe artist, who had had great 
experience, no doubt, but who had also coniirmed habits, and 
whose strong masciiline mind had in it but little of the fem- 
inine element. I believed in him, and could not act by his 
side without being moved and influenced by his intense earn- 
estness and power. I tried hard to do what he advised — too 
much perhaps ; for you may remember, I was accused of hav- 
ing caught his manner and expression. It was almost impos- 
sible to do otherwise, considering the many hours we had to 
pass under his direction. Behearsals began at ten in the 
morning, and usually went on until three or four. When 
reviving an old, or bringing out a new play, these rehearsals 
were as a rule continued daily for three weeks at least, some- 
times for four or five. 

Still, unflinching disciplinarian as he was, Mr Macready was 
not always stem. He could joke, and had '' pretty things to 
say '* upon occasion. I always did my best to be punctual ; 
but I had to drive three miles to the theatre — ^a distance 
which, if I had acted the previous night, I found rather trying 

64 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

in the early winter mornings. I remember well one morning 
when I was a little late, I found that I had been already 
" called " for the stage. On reaching it, I made my apologies, 
but said that if they looked at the time they would find I was 
but ten minutes after the hour, and I understood that ten 
minutes' grace was always given. '' Ah,'* said Mr Macready, 
turning gravely to me, " not to you ! We all agree that you 
do not require it : you have enough already." A rebuke so 
pleasantly given, who would not again willingly provoke ? 

Then with all his sternness, how tender-hearted he was 
when I was suffering from illness ! All knew that, for the 
great exertion of the lungs in this my first girlhood. Nature 
revenged herself by inflicting on me a cough which har- 
assed and distressed me night and day. Often, often has 
Mr Macready said to me: "My poor child, your cough 
goes to my heart. How I wish I could spare you ! " And 
when at last, in my third winter, I was ordered to give up 
my work and go to a milder climate for a year, he never 
omitted writing to me every week, advising me what books 
to read, and encouraging me to write and give him my 
criticisms upon them;^ sending me news of the theatre; 
and, best of all, bidding me get well soon, as I was greatly 

^ Mr Macready was not, bo far as I knew, given to writing verses. It was, 
therefore, a very pleasant surprise to me, when he sent back my album about 
the time spoken of in the text, with these lines addressed to myself : — 

" Tis not the dove-like softness of thine eyes 
My pensive gaze that draws, however fair ; 
A holier charm within their beauty lies, 
The unspotted soul, that's mirrored always ther& 

There every thought of thy young heart is seen, 
Radiant and pure, by truth and genius given, 

As, on the surface of the lake serene 
Beflected, gleam the perfect lights of heaven.'* W. C M. 

Desdemona. 65 

missed and asked for, and he could not revive or bring for- 
ward certain plays without my help. This was my only drop 
of comfort ; for, despite the love and care of a dear friend who 
left her home to tend and watch over me, it was a weary time, 
this banishment — this separation from the art which was all 
in all to me ; from which I had derived almost the only happi- 
ness in my hitherto lonely, little-cared-for life. I could not 
but see, too, that my friends did not expect I should grow 
better. I do not think I very much cared. By the very 
young I believe life is not highly prized. But oh, the in- 
action, the enforced care and thought for myself, the wearing 
cough by night, the sameness of the dreary days ! Had my 
life not been just before so different, so full of work, of 
imaginative excitement, doubtless my spirits would not have 
sunk so low. Happily, the dreary winter and trying 
spring gave way at last to sunmier : sunmier and youth 
triumphed over my illness, and before another winter I was 
well again. 

I have wandered far from my text. " Old memories, they 
cling, they cling ! *' But as my thoughts travel back to these 
well-remembered days, and the 

** Manche liebe Schatten steigen auf," 

of which Groethe speaks, my pen runs on with a freedom 
which I feel sure your friendship will forgive. You see, 
with encouragement, how conceited and '' self -imbued " I 
can become. 

Now let me go back to Desdemona, as I dreamed of her in 
those days, and as I think of her still. As in the case of 
Ophelia and Portia, so also in hers ; her mother had obviously 


66 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

been long dead before Shakespeare takes up the story. Desde- 
mona only once alludes to her mother, and that is in her hour 
of deepest bewilderment and sorrow, when she simply says, 
"My mother had a maid called Barbara," whose lover had 
" proved mad, and did forsake her." Like Portia, Desdemona 
was a noble Venetian lady, but there was a whole world of 
difference between their homes and their bringing up. No 
proud indulgent father watched the training of Desdemona's 
youth, and studied the progress of her heart and mind. Ab- 
sorbed in state affairs, he seems to have been at no pains to 
read his daughter's nature, to engage her affections or her 
confidence. Thus, a creature, loving, generous, imaginative, 
was thrown back upon herself, and left to dream over char- 
acters more noble, and lives more checkered with adventure, 
than any she could see or hear of in her father's luxurious 
home. Making so small a part of her father's life, and missing 
the love, or the display of it, which would have been so 
precious to her, she finds her happiness in dreams of worth 
more exalted than any she has seen, but which she has heard 
and read of in the poets and romancers of her own and other 
times. Supreme mistress of her father's house, she receives 
his guests, dispenses his hospitalities; and, except that she 
has never fdit the assurance of that father's love, she yet 
"hath felt no age nor known no sorrow," and is "a child 
to chiding." 

Her father finds her obedient to his every wish, a most 
diligent mistress of his house affairs — " a maiden never bold ; " 
of "spirit still and quiet." He never thinks of the depths 
that may lie under this unrufSed surface — not only hidden 
from his sight, but unknown to his child herseli He has 

Desdentona. 67 

found her " opposite to marriage " with the " curled darlings " 
of Venice, who had solicited her. As these have never moved 
her quiet, because deep spirit, her love for what he imagines 
she feared to look on is, to his thinking, "against all rules 
of nature," and could only be brought about " by spells and 
medicines bought of mountebanks." The enchantment, the 
witchcraft with which love fills the heart, Brabantio has never 
felt With him all must be magic which is not customary. 

Shakespeare carefully shows, in Desdemona's address to the 
senate, how matters stood between her father and herself. 
''Do you perceive in all this noble company," he asks her, 
" where most you owe obedience ? " Obedience, observe, not 
affection. And what is her reply ? Not that of a shrinking, 
timid girl, but that of a thoughtful woman ; one whose mind 
and heart went with her love, whose courage is as great and 
as high as she thinks the object of her love is worthy — ready 
to meet the consequences, and, above all, to transfer to her 
own shoulders from Othello's the blame of her abduction: 

"That I did love the Moor to live with him, 
My downright violence and storm of fortunes 
May trumpet to the world : . . . 

And to his honours and his valiant parts 
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate." 

Of her father she says he is " the lord of duty." To him she 
is bound for " life and education " ; these teach her " how to 
respect " him. Just as he has not asked, so not a word does 
she say about love and affection toward him. He is silenced. 
She owns freely all she owes him for " life and education." 
Up to the time of her marriage he is first ; she owes and pays 
bim all obedience, all respect \-^ 

68 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

" But here's my liusband ; 
And so much duty as my mother showed 
To you, preferring you before her father, 
So much I challenge that 1 may profess 
Due to the Moor my lord.** 

From all we see of Desdemona's readiness to give more 
than is expected from her of love and service, even to those 
who had much slighter claims upon her, I cannot think she 
would have been wanting in these to her father, had he not 
chilled her girlhood's natural demonstrations of affection. 
There is a kind of proud frowardness in some natures which, 
as I have known, even while loving dearly, will yet hold 
aloof from, keep at a distance, the objects of their love. They 
claim as a right that which will not grow without care and 
fostering, without some responsive looks, some tender words. 

It is hardly conceivable that Brabantio should not have 
been proud of his daughter, of whose beauty and fascination 
he must have heard all tongues speak in praise. What 
pains has not Shakespeare taken to tell us over and over 
again what this gracious creature was ! As she moved among 
her father's guests in his palace halls, or flashed in her gon- 
dola along the canals of Venice, what admiring eyes must 
have followed her ! Of her serene grace and womanly gen- 
tleness Brabantio's words have informed us. Cassio, the 
gentleman and scholar of high blood and breeding, speaks of 
her as 

" A maid 
That paragons description and wild £Eime/' 

When she lands in Cyprus it is 

" The riches of the ship is come on shore ! " 

Desdemona. 69 

High as Othello stands in his regard, yet she is above even 
him in excellence. She is "our great captain's captain." 
Though dead to belief in all human excellence, even lago 
is not blind either to her virtue or her beauty. Although 
to Boderigo he calls her "a super -subtle Venetian," yet to 
Cassio he says, *' She is* of so free, so kind, so apt, so blessed 
a disposition, she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do 
more than she is requested." But if she is such as this to the 
general eye, what is she to Othello's ? To him she is " the 
cunning'st pattern of excelling nature. . . . The world hath 
not a sweeter creature." And then her sweet, womanly 
graces! ''So delicate with her needle: an admirable musi- 
cian: oh, she will sing the savageness out of a bear; of so 
high and plenteous wit and invention ! . . . And then of 
so gentle a condition ! " She is pictured to us, in short, as 
possessed of every quality which could lay hold of a hero's 
heart and bring joy into his home: — 

** If Heaven would make me such another world 
Of one entire and perfect chrjrsolite, 
rd not have sold her for it ! '' 

What imagination would not kindle at the images thus set 
before it! Who would be content to see in this exquisite 
woman, as so many do, only a pretty piece of yielding 

As with Imogen, so with Desdemona, Shakespeare has, in 
the passages cited, and in many others throughout the play, 
taken infinite pains to show how these his favourite heroines 
excelled in every accomplishment — ^how the grace, the purity, 
the dignity of their minds gave added charm to the fascina- 
tion of their beauty and their manners. And this woman 

JO Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

this "divine Desdemona/' whose mind has been fed, as in 
those stirring times of war it was sure to be, with '' tales of 
high emprise and chivalry/' and whose heart is ready for the 
inspiring touch which was to kindle it, is placed by her 
father under the influence which was above all others likely 
to captivate her fancy — ^that of the great general, of Moorish 
but royal blood, whose name was in every mouth, on whose 
valour and generalship the state had leaned, and was lean- 
ing still, as its chief stay. Long before she saw Othello, 
Desdemona must have pictured to herself this remarkable 
man, about whose almost fabulous history the world's talk 
had been so loud, and whose valorous deeds were in every 
mouth. How dull must Brabantio have been, when he so 
oft invited the great hero of the day to his house! If he 
found pleasure in "questioning" the story of Othello's life, 
how was it he did not cast a thought upon the still greater 
charm that story might have for his daughter's ear? Dull 
and blind indeed must the old man have been, not to see 
that the blunt soldier tells it "o'er and o'er," because of 
the sweet listener at his side ; not to see how quickly, when 
called away by house afifairs, she steals back, sinking quietly 
into her seat so as not to interrupt the tale. The tremor in 
Desdemona's manner, which her father mistook for fear, had 
quite another origin. She felt frightened, not at Othello, 
but at herself — ^at the novel, bewildering, absorbing feeling 
which, hour by hour, was overmastering her. 

The rapt attention — the eager, tender eyes, often suffused 
with tears — ^when Othello spoke of "being taken by the 
insolent foe, and sold to slavery" — the parted lips and 
shortened breath, — if these were noted by Brabantio, it 

Desdemona, 7 1 

would seem he held them as of no more moment than 
if they had been called forth by some skilled improvisatore. 
The idea that his daughter's being could be moved, her heart 
touched, by this stranger to her race and country — this 

"Extravagant and wheeling stranger 
Of here and everywhere," 

aa Bodeiigo calls him, whose complexion was like ''the 
shadowed livery of the burnished sun" — ^had never crossed 
his mind. He would as soon have thought of her being 
attracted by her torch-bearer or her gondolier, as by one 
whom he classes with "bond slaves and pagans/' 

This wide difference of feeling could not have existed, 
had there been any living sympathy between the father 
and his child. He would have foreseen the danger of ex- 
posing a girl dawning into womanhood, and of sensibilities 
so deep, to such an unusual fascination, and she would have 
tamed to him when she found herself in danger of being 
oyermastered by a feeling, the indulgence in which might 
wreck his peace or her own. But the father, who is only 
the " lord of duty," has established no claim upon her heart ; 
and that heart, hitherto untouched, is stolen from her during 
these long interviews, insensibly but for ever. 

We are not to think that all this happens suddenly. The 
father is not surprised into losing his child. If he has been 
deceived, it is by himself and not by her. Othello speaks 
of having " some nine moons wasted " away from the tented 
field. Many of these may have been passed in Venice. 
Much time, therefore, may have flitted happily away in these 
interrupted recitals, before Othello found "good means to 
draw" from Desdemona 

72 Shakespeare s Femtale Characters 

Tint he would an hit ptlgrimige dOate, 
Wboeof bj pareelf ihe bjid tomelliing lieaidy 
But not inieBtiTel J." 

When the story has been told frran first to last, she gives 
for his '^ pains a world of sig^" 

" Twas pitiful, 'twas wmdioos pitifdl ; 
She wished ihe had not hcaid it. Yet ehe wished 
That Hearen had made her such a man,*' 

90 noble, so self -devoting, so grandly enduring — so altogether 
spotless and heroic Here comes out the warrior spirit which 
I have ascribed to her — the power of kindling, of under- 
standing and rising up to, heroic deeds. We feel, even 
apart from Othello's words and her own subsequent avowal, 
that ^ her heart's subdued even to the very quality " of her 
lord Thenceforth she is his own, in war or peace, in life 
and death, for evermore. The accident of the difference in 
Othello's complexion, which operates against him in other 
eyes, endears him to hers. It touches her generosity. ''I 
saw Othello's visage in his mind ; " and '^ to his honours and 
his valiant parts" she consecrates her soul and fortunes 
from that moment. 

Thus, under his very eyes, was Brabantio's daughter wooed 
and won; for he does not venture to gainsay this, after 
Othello has delivered his "round unvarnished tale" to the 
Venetian CounciL But his veiy blindness — ^indifference it 
could not be — must have shown the lovers the impossibility 
of gaining his consent to their union. 

Therefore did the "maiden never bold" take courage to 
leave her father's home, and give herself in marriage to the 
Moor. She had also the true, quiet courage, when sent for 

Desdemona, 73 

to the senate-house^ to appeal directly to the Duke, begging 
him to hear her story, and to let her find a '' charter in his 
voice to assist her simpleness." When her "unfolding" is 
ended, there is but one feeling in the council — to " let her 
will have free way." The Duke, in bidding "good-night to 
every one," adds to Brabantio: — 

** And, noble signior, 
If virtue no delighted beauty lack, 
Your son-in law ifi far more fair than black." 

The first senator says: "Adieu, brave Moor; use Desde- 
mona well." Then does Brabantio let out the cold malignity 
of his natural disposition — the unforgiving cruelty which he 
keeps to the last, so that it may sting and wound more surely : 

*' Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see : 
She has deceived her father, and may thee.** 

Othello responds, " My life upon her faith ! " 

How vain, how futile are his words! Desdemona never 
forgot them. But how was it with Othello? Although at 
the time cast aside, defied, yet they struck home as they 
were intended; and such a listener as lago, intent, as we 
know beforehand, on revenge, and caring not by what means 
it was brought about, would eagerly seize the weapon Bra- 
bantio puts into his hands, which, adroitly wielded by this 
subtle fiend, leads on to the fearful climax — ^"the tragic 
loading" of Desdemona's bed! These fatal words open up 
to his quick eye the whole devilish scheme on which the 
play turns, and he closes the scene saying — 

'' I have 't. It is engendered. Hell and night 
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light ! " 

Well might Othello say, " My life upon her faith ! " How 

74 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

valiantly has she — his few hours' wife — stood by him before 
these haughty senators and her much-dreaded father! how 
surprised him with delight, begging, this delicately nurtured 
lady, to be allowed to share with him the hardships and 
perils of the impending campaign — to live with him in the 
" tented field " ! Had she been one who loved her ease and 
pleasure, such an one as lago describes Venetian women in 
general to have been, was she likely to make such a request ? 
Who cannot see that this woman was of the true, heroic 
mould, fearless as she was gentle ? At the time, her request 
appears to have gone to Othello's heart — to have moved 
him to endless gratitude, as well it might. When they 
meet at Cyprus, the first words on his lips are, "0 my 
fair warrior!" The phrase, doubtless, afterwards became a 
favourite one with them; and it is touching to find Desde- 
mona using it after Othello's to her incomprehensible frenzy 
concerning the handkerchief, when she rebukes herself for 
her momentary harsh thought of him: — 

" Beshrew me much, Emilia, 
I was, unhandsome warrior as I am, 
Arraigning his unkindness with my soul ; 
But now I find I had suborn *d the witness, 
And he's indicted falsely." 

" My life upon her faith ! " Yes, whatever these words 
were for Othello, they were ever dear to her, believing, as she 
does almost to the last, that her noble Moor's love and trust 
were as absolute as her own. In this her very innocence, in 
her loyalty to her husband, and to his friend Michael Cassio, 
lago finds the easy means to accomplish his fiendish purpose. 

It is the highest tribute to Desdemona that she alone is 

Desdemona, 75 

imb^uiled by logo's subtlety. Othello, Eoderigo, Cassio, 
Emilia, he plays upon them all—uses them, gets them within 
his fatal grasp— makes of them his tools or his dupes — ^leads 
them on blindly to their own undoing. Not so Desdemona. 

'* Ob, she was innocent ! 
And to be innocent is nature's wisdom ! 
Oh, surer than suspicion's hundred eyes 
Is that fine sense, which to the pure in heart, 
By mere oppugnoncy to their own goodness. 
Reveals the approach of evil ! " ^ 

lago, conscious of this fine intuition, makes no attempt to 
deceive her. His victim she may be, but he feels she will 
never be his dupe. After the first meeting in Cyprus, he 
appears never to have come into contact with her, until she 
sends for him, to see if he can throw light upon the un- 
accountable change that has come over her husband. Had 
he dared to approach her with the faintest suggestion that 
Othello was untrue, she would have treated him as Nina 
Sforza, another noble Venetian lady, treated a similar tra- 
ducer in ^ouch Troughton's fine modern tragedy which bears 

her name: — 

" My Doria false ! 

Oh, I could strike thee, liar ! " 

Except to illustrate the truth that no man knows himself, I 
marvel why Shakespeare makes Otliello speak of himself as 
*" not easily jealous." It seems to me that the spark scarcely 
touches the tinder before it is aflame. A few words dropped 
by the tempter take hold of him even when his happiness is 
at the fullest — when he has just parted from Desdemona in a 
transport of content, which finds vent in the words — 

' Coleridge's ZapUyaf Act iv. so. 1. 

76 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

" Excellent wretch ! Perdition catch my soul, 
But I do love thee ! And when I love thee not, 
Chaos is come again." 

Chaos hoA come ! An artfully muttered " Indeed ! " a ques- 
tion about Gassio's previous acquaintance with his wife, and 
his suspicion is at once aroused. Othello insists upon 
knowing lago's " thinkings/' on wringing from him the mean- 
ings of his " stops/' gives admission at once to the idea that he 
may be wronged ; and when lago, by way of seeming warning, 
bids him beware of "jealousy," you see, from his agonised 
exclamation, " misery ! " that the word has sunk into the 
veiy depths of his being. All the love, all the devoted 
self-sacrifice of Desdemona, all sense of what is due to her 
and to himself, are forgotten. He suffers lago to remind 
him of her father's parting words, and so to pour his en- 
venomed slime upon this fair creature, to whom he owes so 
much, that her name and fame can never again in life show 
fair in his eyes: — 

*' She's gone ; I am abased, and my relief 
Must be to loathe her." 

And thus, because of the foul words, the vile suggestion of 
this base Machiavellian trickster, the life of these two noble 
beings is turned from paradise into hell, and there is no more 
peace nor joy for either of them. 

Othello is right, when he says of lago that he 

'* Knows all qualitieB, with a learned spirit. 
Of human dealings.^' 

But that he should think him " honest/' this is the marvel. 
Nor less marvel is it that, knowing him to be but a " rough 
soldier," and, as lago says of himself, by nature apt " to spy 

Desdetnona, 77 

into abuses/' and to " shape things that are not/' he can allow 
him, even distantly, to approach the sanctuary of his wife's 
virtue. Men, as we know, may possess all manly gifts, and 
be fairly decorous and moral in their conduct, yet, through 
some defect of nature or of training, or of both, may be 
quite incapable of conceiving the noblest qualities of woman- 
hood. To understand these, there must be some sympathy, 
some afi&nity. Therefore lago might be in a sense " honest/' 
yet totally unfit to speak or be listened to on such a subject. 
Had Othello been really the "noble Moor," as "true of 
mind " as Desdemona thought him, he would, at the lightest 
aspersion of his wife, have recoiled from lago as from a 
serpent. He would have crushed the insolent traducer and 
his vile suggestions beneath his heel in bitterest contempt. 

" Not easily jealous ! " Of all men, Othello had cause not 
to be jealous. Capable as he had proved himself of admiring 
Desdemona's trustful, reverential love, of appreciating her 
graceful, playful fondness — new as it was to him, and touch- 
ing, as it did, chords which had never vibrated during a life 
spent hitherto among men in the rough scenes of war, his 
senses fascinated by her beauty, as his mind was by her 
purity and sympathy — ^how could he fall away from his 
allegiance so soon ? Was such a woman as Desdemona likely 
to become untrue because he had not a fair skin or silky 
manners ? " She had eyes, and chose me ! " Or why should 
he think he had been displaced in her aflTections by Gassio ? 
Cassio was obviously an older friend of Desdemona than 
himself — a welcome visitor at Brabantio's house ; for in their 
wooing he " went between them very oft" He makes no 
secret of his admiration of Desdemona ; and we may be sure 

78 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

that, had she shown him the slightest favour, he would have 
been among her suitors. But no. All his advantages of 
person, of mind and manners, had given him no hold upon 
her fancy. His best recommendation to her had been that he 
was ever eloquent in Othello's praise : — 

<« What ! Michael Cassio, 
That came a-wooing with yon, and many a time, 
When I have spoke of you dispraisingly, 
Hath ta*en your part ! " 

As if she had ever spoken of him dispraisingly ! — except, per- 
haps, for the pleasure of having her ears filled with his praises 
by one who " had known him long." Yet not a thought of this 
familiar story crosses Othello's mind ; he leaps at once to the 
conclusion that both the tried friend and the wife who had 
forsworn for his sake " country, credit, everything," were false 
to him. And this he does upon the mere suggestion of a 
villain whom he absurdly believes to be " of exceeding hon- 
esty." Truly had lago gauged him when he said — 

« The Moor is of a free and open nature, 
That thinks men honest that but seem to be so ; 
And will as tenderly be led by the nose 
As asses are ! " 

But lago could neither see nor feel that Othello's nature, free 
and open as it might be, lacked that true nobility which, 
being itself incapable of baseness, is resolutely closed to 
innuendoes against those it loves. Alas the while ! But for 
this fatal defect, how could Othello have fallen so easy a prey 
to his malignant tempter — ^how could he have come so readily 
to believe that he had been discarded there, where, as he 
says, he had "garnered up his heart" — 

Desdemona. 79 

" Where either I muBt live, or bear no life ; 
The fountain from the which my current runs, 
Or else dries up " ? 

We feel with him when he exclaims, " Oh, the pity of it, the 
pity of it ! " but we feel, too, that had he but possessed some 
of Desdemona's loyalty, some grains of common-sense, all 
lago's snares might have been set for him in vain. 

For, after all, lago, as I have said, seems to me but a poor 
trickster at the best. He acts from the basest motives, and 
works by artifices the shallowest as well as the most vile — 
artifices liable to be upset at any moment by the merest 
casualty. He hates Othello mortally for having, as he thinks, 
unfairly kept him out of his lieutenancy. If Othello erred 
in this, his injustice [is paid for by a fearful penalty. lago's 
jealousy of Othello with his wife is but one of those conscious 
sacrifices to what he himself calls the " divinity of heU," to 
which he resorts as juggles with his conscience. He hates 
Cassio for the same cause, and for supplanting him in his 
office. He hates his wife, as such creatures hate the wives 
that have " outlived their liking." He is brutish in mind as, 
when he dare be, he is in manners, and he is as sordid as he 
is vindictive — using Roderigo, that " poor trash of Venice," as 
a sponge to squeeze ducats from. Above all, he hates Desde- 
mona, because she is impervious to his arts. Gunning as he 
is, yet he is in hourly terror that the net he has woven to 
ensnare others may enmesh himself. One word of frank 
explanation between Othello and Desdemona, a whisper 
from Emilia that the handkerchief was given by herself to 
her husband, a hint from Roderigo to Desdemona of the 
lies with which lago has fooled him, and all his fine-spun 


80 Shakespeare s FemaU Characters : 

web would li&re fallen to pieces before, na it does fall in 
the end. He knows this well, and sees no way of escape 
but in the murder of his dupes. Boderigo and Cassio 
must be "removed," and the Moor goaded on to mur- 
der his wife. To murder her — and how ? Othello would 
have made her death swift and easy by poison. But this is 
not torture enough to satisfy lago. " Strangle her in her bed 
— even the bed she has contaminated ! " When we think- of 
all that has gone before — when, with this suggestion still 
recent on his lips, we see hiiri afterwards by the side of 
Desdemona, summoned by her in her trouble, as her " good 
friend," we feel inclined to echo his own words : " There is 
no such man ; it is impossible." 

lago has wit enough to see some of the good qualities of 
his victims, and, judging of other men by himself — for he 
knows no other standard— he acts with full reliance on the 
vices and the weaknesses of mankind, fiut he has not wit 
enough to see that lie is playing a game wliich he must lose 
in the end, for all the odds are against the chance of his 
victims being swept away so completely that his villainy can 
never come to light. I see no grandeur in a " demi-devil " of 
this type; and I think the judgment misplaced which can 
find it in his expressed determination to answer no questions, 
even upon the rack. He had already said too much in his 
garrulous boast of having tricked his victims by dropping 
Desdemona's handkerchief in Cassio's chamber, A cleverer 
villain would have held his peace. Woful indeed it is, that 
a creature so despicable should have had the power to hurt 
Othello's mind past curing, to drag it down into the very mire 
— that he should have made him think base thoughts, and 

Desdemona. 8i 

stain his soul so deeply that no years of penitential grief could 

wash it clean again. History has not on record such another 

inhuman villain. In my young dreams I never could quite 

decide into which of the circles of the Inferno he should be 

cast ; even the worst seemed too good for him. 

Is not my view of both Othello and lago borne out by 

the brief, sad story, that rushes on so swiftly to its ghastly 

climax ? We see little of the blissful life which Othello and 

Desdemona lived after their happy union as married lovers 

at Cyprus. After all his terrors for her safety, that he 

should find Desdemona happily landed there before him is a 

relief and a joy past all expressing. With a foreboding of 

evil he fears that 

" Not another comfort like to this 
Succeeds in unknown fate.'' 

Troubles indeed begin early to press upon them. Cassio, 
their friend, endeared to them by the closest ties, so un- 
accountably forgets himself that his general has at once to 
strip him of his lieutenancy. This must be a great sorrow 
to them both. Still, the rent is not irreparable; and we 
learn that Othello would have been glad of a fair excuse to 
reinstate his friend. When Desdemona first speaks for 
Cassio, we see that she knew Othello's mind. He pretends 
— ^but only pretends — ^to be absorbed in other matters, for 
the pleasure of hearing her plead as a petitioner. He puts 
her off only to hear her urge her suit again : — 

" Gk>od my lord, 
If I have any grace or power to move you^ 
His present reconciliation take ; 
For, if he be not one that truly loves you, 
That errs in ignorance and not in cunning, 


82 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

I have no judgment in an honest face. 

. . . Good love, call him back. 

0^. Not now, sweet Desdemona ; some other time. 

Dm, But shall't be shortly ? 

0^. The sooner, sweet, for you. 

Bu, Sball't be to-night at supper 1 

0^. No, not to-night. 

2)««. To-morrow dinner, then ? 

OiK, I shall not dine at home. 

2)e«. Why, then, to-morrow night, or Tuesday mom ; 
Or Tuesday noon, or night ; on Wednesday mom : 
I prithee, name the time ; but let it not 
£zceed three dajrs ; in faith he's penitent 
... I wonder in my soul 
What you would ask me, that I should deny. 
Or stand so mammering on. What ! Michael Cassio, 
That came ar wooing with you," &c 

When Othello sees that Desdemona is hurt at his silence, he 
breaks in with — 

" Prithee, no more : let him come when he will ; 
I will deny thee nothing." 

But she thinks this so small a favour to be granted to a friend 
who had done so much for them, that she will hardly accept 
it as such. The "great captain's captain" will not have it 
called a "boon." Tis only so slight a service as she would 
" entreat him wear his gloves, or feed on nourishing dishes " : 

" Nay, when I have a suit 
. Wherein I mean to touch your love indeed, 
It shall be full of poise and difficulty. 
And fearful to be granted." 

He repeats his former words : — 

*' I will deny thee nothing ; 
Whereon, I do beseech thee, grant me this. 
To leave me but a little to myself.** 

Desdemona. 83 

How sweet is her rejoinder 

" Shall I deny yon 1 no : fiBiewellf my lord." 

He replies : — 

« Farewell, my Desdemona : 111 come to thee straight " — 

which draws from her the winning assurance of her full fadth 

in him: — 

*' Be as yonr ffuicies teach you ; 
Whatever yon be, I am obedient" 

And at this point ends the happiness, which is as perfect now 
as it well could be. 

In the meantime, and while the adder's tongue is busy at 
its work, arrive the leading personages in Cyprus invited by 
Othello to a banquet. Desdemona receives them, and plays 
the part of gracious hostess, so natural to her. To her sur- 
prise Othello, who said he would '* come to her straight," does 
not appear. She fears his guests will think him discourteous 
in this prolonged absence, and hastens herself to remind him of 
their visitors. She enters gaily, ready with a pretty chiding : 

" How now, my dear Othello ! 
Your dinner, and the generous islanders 
By yon invited, do attend yonr presence. 
Oe^ I am to blame." 

The coldness and reserve of his speech startle her: — 

" Why do you speak so faintly ? Are you not well 1 

Oih, I have a pain upon my forehead here. 

Da, Faith, thaf s with watching ; 'twill away again : 
Let me but bind it hard, within this honr 
It will be well. 

OiK, Yonr napkin is too little ; 

Let it alone." 

84 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

The anger and abraptness shown in this reply to her offer 
to relieve his pain must have come indeed as a shock to 
Desdemona, contrasting strangely as it did with the tone of 
their last parting so short a time before. Yet she sweetly 
adds, without noticing his rudeness: — 

" I am very sorry that you are not well." 

No wonder, finding things so changed, and with no appa- 
rent cause, that she forgets the handkerchief, dear as it was 
to her, with which she had offered to bind his forehead. She is 
" a child to chiding," and no doubt feels these first harsh words 
very keenly. They go out together, and we may suppose that 
her frank innocent demeanour and fond words reassure him 
for the time. I remember so well Mr Macready's manner 
as we left the scene. He took my face in both his hands, 
looked long into my eyes, and then the old look came into 
his, and it spoke as plainly as possible, " My life upon her 

What happens at the banquet we are not told. It cannot 
be the presence of Gassio which inflames Othello, for, being 
in disgrace, he would hardly be there. It may be that the 
free, loyal homage which he sees paid to his wife, not 
only because of her position as his wife, but still more on 
account of her beauty and sweet courtesy to his guests, 
makes her still more precious in his eyes, so that the 
bare thought of not standing alone in her affections mad- 
dens him. But certainly he returns shortly after in a par- 
oxysm of rage and grief, and salutes lago with "Avauntj 
begone! thou hast set me on the rack." Then follows that 
exquisite speech in which he bids farewell to everything in 

Desdemona. 85 

life most dear — ^to " the tranquil mind ! " — to " content ! " — 
to all "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war." 

" Farewell ! Othello's occupation's gone ! " 

To direct the fury of Othello's "waked wrath" into the 
desired channel, lago has ready a whole catalogue of reasons 
to prove Desdemona and Cassio's disloyalty. Othello accepts 
them readily, as though they were " proofs of Holy Writ " : — 

" Now do I see 'tis true. Look here, lago ; 
All my fond love tlins do I blow to heaven. 
Tis gone. . . . Swell, bosom, with thy fraught, 
For 'tis of aspics' tongues I " 

These "aspics* tongues" have been hissing out their venom 
to deadly purpose. These are the drugs which lago uses, and 
to which he t^ain appeals : — 

" Work on— 
My medicine, work ! Thus credulous fools are caught" 

Desdemona has made so sure of winning Othello's consent 
to receive Cassio into favour again, that she sends for him 
to tell him the good news : " Tell him I have moved my lord 
on his hehalf, and hope all will be well." But before they 
meet occurs the scene with the handkerchief, and Othello's 
violence at the supposed loss of it. Still Desdemona, who 
knows nothing of its whereabouts, believing it to be only 
mislaid, and hoping to have it to show him when it has 
been properly searched for, thinks his vehemence on the 
subject a little overstrained — put upon her, indeed, "as a 
trick to drive her from her suit" Therefore she still repeats 
it, urging Cassio's claims upon him with the words — 

86 Shake^ear^s Female Characters : 

** Youll never meet a moie snfficient man. 
• ••••• 

^ man that, all his time, 

£[ath founded his good fortunes on your love ; 

Shared dangers with you." 

It is only when Othello breaks angrily from her that she 

realises there may be '' some wonder in this handkerchief : I 

am most unhappy in the loss of it." 

Emilia, instead of being, as her husband fancies, inclined 

bivourably towards Othello, appears to me to have the dislike, 

common to her class, of anything unusual, and looks all along 

upon the Moor with unfriendly, suspicious eyes. So she says, 

" 'Tib not a year or two shows us a man." 

She no doubt had found it to be so : even lago must have 
appeared to her in different colours when they were first 
wedded. Her pent-up dislike to the Moor adds fuel to her 
wraths when she finds subsequently that he has been the easy 
dupe of her villainous husband. 

After the episode of the handkerchief, when Gassio appears, 
who had been sent for by Desdemona to hear, as she hoped, 
good news, Desdemona, ever unselfish, is as sorry for him as 
for herself : — 

*' Alas, thrice-gentle Cassio I 
My advocation is not now in tune ; 
My lord is not my lord ; nor should I know him, 
Were he in favour as in humour altered." 

She remembers that she has pledged herself to be his '' solici- 
tor " even to the death : — 

** You must awhile be patient : 
What I can do I will ; and more I will 
Than for myself I dare : let that suffice you." 

Cassio will surely think of this hereafter ! 

Desdemona. 87 

The next time we see Desdemona she comes with Lodovioo, 
who has been sent to Cyprus from Venice, bearing to Othello 
the Duke's letters and conmiands. Desdemona salutes Lodo- 
vico as '' cousin." He may be so, or this may be only a phrase 
of courtesy in the way that royalty uses it. When speaking 
of him afterwards to Emilia, she says, " This Lodovico is a 
proper man." " A very handsome man," says Emilia. Des- 
demona replies, " He speaks well." See the difTerence in the 
women — how finely marked in these comments ! While 
Othello reads his papers, Lodovico inquires after his friend, 
Lieutenant Cassio. Upon this Desdemona, who never loses 
sight of her promise, says : " Cousin, there's fallen between 
him and my lord an unkind breach ; " and, beginning to fear 
that her own influence will not be sufficient, she adds, '' But 
you shall make all well." " Is there division," Lodovico says, 
with evident surprise, " 'twixt my lord and Cassio ? " 

'^ A most unhappy one : I would do much 
To atone them, for the love I bear to Cassio." 

This public declaration of her goodwill — which appears, what 
in truth it is, nothing to those around but simply the natural 
feeling for a friend in trouble — all but maddens Othello ; and 
when Desdemona expresses her gladness that they are com- 
manded home, and that Cassio is to be governor of Cyprus in 
his place, Othello breaks out, " I am glad to see you modi* 
AND STRIKES HER. All must think him mad: — 

^ My lord, this would not be believed in Venice, 
Though I should swear I saw't : 'tis veiy much : 
Make her amends ; she weeps." 

Her tears, Othello says, are but those of a crocodile. To his 

88 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

fiercer injunction, " Out of my sight ! " her only answer is, " I 

will not stay to offend you." Then she is called back, and 

comes upon the instant, true to her former words — " Whatever 

you be, I am obedient." Untouched by her gentleness, Othello 

continues : — 

" Proceed you in your tears. 
Concerning this, sir, — well-painted passion ! — 
. . . Get you away ; 
1^1 send for you anon. . . . Hence, avaont ! " 

No wonder that Lodovico, when Othello quits the scene, 
exclaims in amazement: — 

" Is this the noble Moor whom oar full senate 
Call all-in-all snfficient ? This the nature 
Whom passion could not shake ? . . . 
Are his wits safe ? Is he not light of brain ? 

• • • • • • • 

What! strike his wife ! '' 

lago prepares Lodovico for what he knows is to follow, by 
replying : " Would I knew that stroke would prove the worst !" 
"I am sorry that I am deceived in him," is Lodovico's 
answer. He will remember afterwards that he has been de- 
ceived in more than in Othello. 

Next come the Moor's interrogations of Emilia, and her 

replies : — 

" I durst, my lord, to wager she is honest, 
Lay down my soul at stake : . . . 
For, if she be not honest, chaste, and true, 
There's no man happy." 

But she may as well speak to the winds. If Othello had 
spoken here of having seen the handkerchief in Cassio's hand, 
I believe, despite the terror of her husband, Emilia would 
have explained how she had herself found and given it to 


Desdemona. 89 

lago ; but he does not. He sends her to fetch Desdemona, 

and then rudely dismisses her. 

The poor dove is now in the falcon's grasp, but not quite 

yet to be torn to pieces. One wonders why Othello sends for 

her, for he will believe nothing she says or swears : — 

*' Oih, Swear thou art honest. ) 

Du, Heaven doth truly know it 

0th, Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell! 
Dts, To whom, my lord ? With whom ? How am I false ? 

Alas, what ignorant sin have I committed ? I 

OtA. . . . What committed I | 

I should make very forges of my cheeks, \ 

That would to cinders bum up modesty, ^ 

Did I but speak thy deeds. What committed ! 1 

• ••...• 

Da» By Heaven, you do me wrong ! " 

When in the coarsest terms he asks her if she is not un- 
faithful, she exclaims : " No, as I am a Christian. . . . No, 
as I shall be saved ! " \ 

Emilia finds her on the floor, to which she has sunk after t 

making oath, on her knees, of her being to Othello " a true * 

and loyal wife." Think how stunned and bewildered she * 

must be ! She is accused of a crime beyond all others most ^ 

foreign to her nature. She can imagine no motive for the 
accusation — has no clue to the "With whom? How am I 
false?" It is like a hideous dream; and, with a pathos 
UBSurpassed. to my thinking, in poetry, she answers Emilia's 
question, " How do you, my good lady ? " with — • 

" 'Faith half asleep. 
EmiL Good madam, what* s the matter with my lord 1 I 

Dei, Who is thy lord ? | 

Emil, He that ia youn, sweet lady. 




90 Shakespearis Female Characters : 

Des. I have none: do not talk to me, Emilia; I caimot weep. 
. . . Prithee to-night 
Lay on my bed my wedding-aheets — remember ; 
I And call thy hoaband hither." 

Then follows that most pathetic scene, in which she so 
touchingly appeals for help to her destroyer, and asks, " Am 
I that name, lago?" "What name, fair lady?" Not being 
able to utter the foul word herself, she answers : — 

** Such aa ahe aaya my lord did aay I was. 

good lago, 


f What ahall I do to win my lord again ? 

Gk>od Mend, go to him ; for, by thia light of heaven, 

1 know not how I loat him." 

I She fears that in his anger he may shake her off " to beggarly 

j divorcement." Yet as she ever did, so she ever will, " love 

him dearly." 

" Unkindneaa may do much ; 
And his imkindneaa may defeat my Hfe, 
But never taint my love." 

She has to put up with the cold comfort which lago gives — 
pretending to know nothing : — 

" I pray you, be content ; 'tis but his humour : 
The business of the state does him offence, 
And he does chide with you." 

At this she catches with trembling eagerness : — 

" If 'twere no other — 

logo. Tib but so, I warrant 

Qo in, and weep not ; all things shall be welL" 

How sad it is that the exigencies of our stage require the 
omission of the exquisite scene which follows (act iv. sc. 3) 
in the anteroom to Desdemona's chamber — a scene so im- 

Desdemona. 91 

portant for the development of her character, and affording 

snch fine opportunity for the highest powers of pathos in the 

actress ! ^ Othello, says Emilia, " looks gentler " ; but he has 

commanded her to be dismissed. '' Dismiss me ! " " So he \ 

says." " I would you had never seen him ! " "So would not ( 

I," Desdemona rejoins : — \ 

" My love doth so approve him, \ 

That even his stubbomneas, his checks, his frowns — 
Prithee, unpin me, — have grace and favour in them." | 

She had before, when most unhappy, bidden Emilia lay her 
wedding-sheets that night upon her bed. Emilia now tells 
her she has done so. She replies — 

" All's one. Good faith, how foolish are our minds ! 
If I do die before thee, prithee, shroud me 
In one of those same sheets " — 





* I never saw this scene acted but once, and that was in Dresden. Cer- 
tainly the Germans prove their high admiration and respect for our great 
poet They give his plays in their integrity, never dreaming of cutting out 
the very scenes that are most necessary for the development of plot and 
character. Their scenery is good, appropriate, harmonious — and stands,, as it 
always should, in subservience to the plot and human interest in the play : 
it is so unostentatiously good that you never think of it. So of the costumes : 
you think you see the persons represented. As all is in keeping, so you never 
criticise what the characters wear. You feel at once, they looked or did not 
look as they should, and give this subject no further heed. All these matters 
are deeply studied, but not so much talked about as they are here. Being 
but accessories at the best, they are very properly only treated as such. 

I feel very grateful for the draped curtain which in Germany drops down 
from the sides after a scene — a usage which is now adopted in one or two of 
our leading theatres. While it is closed, such furniture as has been necessary 
for the scene is quietly withdrawn (no sofas pushed on and puUed off by very 
visible ropes)— and the next scene appears, on the withdrawal of the curtain 
quite complete. In this way one of the great difficulties in presenting Shake- 
speare's plays, arising from the frequent changes of the scene, is got over. In 
Germany, a play of Shakespeare takes a whole long evening ; and the Germans 

will sit four or five hours, Ustening patiently and delightedly to all he has to \ 

teach them. 


92 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

little thinking how soon that shroud would be required. In 
what follows, what might not be done by that silent acting — 
that eloquence not of words but of look and gesture — which 
is the great test of the actor's powers ! While Emilia is " un- 
pinning" her mistress, I picture to myself Desdemona seated, 
her sad thoughts wandering far away, gently taking the jewels 
from her throat, her ears, her fingers ; while Emilia uncoils 
the pearls from her hair, untwists its long plaits, and gathers 
them for the night in a loose coil at the back of her head. 
Then, as Emilia kneels at her feet to unfasten the embroidered 
shoes, Desdemona may put her hand admiringly on Emilia's 
head and smooth her fine hair. Meanwhile her thoughts are 
travelling back to her childhood — ^perhaps to that mother 
whose caresses she so early lost and missed, for she had 
known but few from her cold father : in imagination she may 
again feel them. Then she remembers Barbara, her mother's 
maid, who loved and was forsaken, and who died singing the 
sad old ditty that " expressed her fortune " — an incident likely 
to stamp itself deeply in Desdemona's memory. Little had 
she thought it was to be her death-song too ! — 

*^ That song to-night 
Will not go from my mind. I have much to do, 
But to go hang my head all at one side, 
And sing it like poor Barbara. . . . 

'* (Singi) * The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore-tree. 
Sing all a green willow ; 

• ••••••• 

Her salt tears fell from her, and soften'd the stones'; 
Lay by these : — 

* Sing willow, willow, willow; ' 

Prithee, hie thee ; hell come anon: . . . 

' Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve' — 
Nay, thaf 8 not next. Hark ! who is't that knocks ? 

Desdemona. 93 

EtmL It is the wind. 

Dm. ' I call'd my love false love ; but what said he then \ 

Sing wiUow, wiUow, wiUow.* 

• ••«•«•■ 

. . . Good night. Mine eyes do itch ; 
Doth that bode weeping 1 

EmL Tis neither here nor there. 

Def. I have heard it said so. . . . 
Dost thou in conscience think, — tell me, Emilia, — 
That there be women do abuse their husbands 
In such gross kind ? 

EvmX, There be some such, no question. 

• ••••• 

Dt», Beshrew me, if I would do such a wrong 
For the whole world. 

• • • • • • • 

I do not think there is any such woman." 

After listening to some of Emilia's coarse worldly maxims, 
she breaks away from the subject by saying — 

" Good night, good night : Heaven me such uses send, 
Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend ! " 

Although such heavy clouds had passed over her happiness, 
yet Desdemona still loved and trusted, and was not, there- 
fore, altogether sad. To the last she shows herself to be of a 
hopeful, generous disposition. She knows how to forgive — 
hopes that what has been the mystery of Othello's unkind- 
ness is perhaps to be explained in the privacy of their cham- 
ber, when a word of regret, of remorse from him, will win her 
fullest pardon. There is something almost sublime in this 
unshaken love and trust. She falls asleep in it — for oh, such 
a rude awakening! The swan had sung her song, and so 
sinks into her deathbed, although she knew it not. 

It is, as we have seen, with some presentiment of sorrow 

94 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

before her that Desdemona goes to bed. The shock of 
Othello's accasation has stmck to her soul, and shaken her 
whole being. She will not accuse or hear him accused of 
injustice by Emilia, but her idol cannot stand in her ima- 
gination where he did. He has human infirmities, and these 
far greater than she could have looked for. She can think 
of no indiscretion of her own, except perhaps suing for their 
friend Cassio, at a time when Othello was not in a mood 
to listen — when state affairs disturbed him. Yet how could 
he, for so slight a cause, strike her — disgrace himself and her 
before the gentleman who came with despatches from Venice, 
and afterwards shock her ears with names not to be uttered ! — 


" Throw Buch despite and heavy terms upon her, 
As true hearts cannot bear ! " 

Is this her noble Moor, ''so true of mind, and made of no 
such baseness as jealous creatures are " ? 

Sad, disappointed as she is at his unkindness, yet her con- 
science is at rest. Besides, the fit seemed past: he had 
"looked gentler"; so, trying for more hopeful thoughts, and 
praying for the help she needed — worn out, too, as she was 
by unusual and unexpected trouble — she falls asleep. 

It is strange it never occurs to Othello that, if Desdemona 
had really been the "cunning" Venetian he thought her, 
knowing her vileness discovered, she might have found means 
easily to bribe those who would have hidden her from his 
just wrath. Emilia was not so scrupulous a woman as to 
have refused her assistance. Besides, had not the Moor in- 
sulted her, also, in the grossest language ? And would she 
not have been, at a word from her mistress, glad enough to 

Desdemona. 95 

help her, and thwart him ? But he sees this cunning, past 
all expressing " vile one " obey his will without a murmur, go 
quietly to bed, and finds her, with this load of guilt, as he 
believes, upon her heart, sleeping the sweet sleep of a child. 
Well may Emilia exclaim of him, "0 gull! dolt!" He 
sees nothing but what he is primed to see ; in all things else 
" as ignorant as dirt." He may have " looked gentler," but 
the poison has done its work; and nothing but the life's 
blood of his victim can, as he says, ''remove or choke the 
strong conception which I do groan withaL" The very 
serenity of her guileless soul makes against her. '' She must 
die, or she'll betray more men." What a scene is this I The 
powers of good and evil have met in mortal strife ! 

My friends used to say, as Mr Macready did, that in 
Desdemona I was "very hard to kilL" How could I be 
otherwise ? I vxyuld not die dishonoured in Othello's esteem. 
This was bitterer than fifty thousand deaths. Then I thought 
of all his after-suffering, when he should come to know how 
he had mistaken me! The agony for him which filled my 
heart, as well as the mortal agony of death, which I felt in 
imagination, made my cries and struggles no doubt very 
vehement and very real My whole soul was flung into the 
entreaty, but for "half an hour!" "but while I say one 
prayer!" — which prayer would have been for Aim. Then, 
when she hears, for the first time, that Cassio is the sup- 
posed accomplice in her guilt, it was as though I spoke for 
myself in uttering the swift rejoinder — "Send for the man 
and ask him!"^ 

^ It WBB a great pleasure to me, when, talking with Mr Carlyle in 1878 
about Mr Macready's revivaLi, which he spoke of very warmly, he referr«d 

96 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Oh that Othello had been so true a friend and husband as 
to do this before ! But no : the poison still works, and all 
she says only serves to augment his fury. When Desdemona 
hears that Cassio has already lost his life, and that "his 
mouth is stopped/' she naturally weeps the loss of the inno- 
cent man, both for his own sake and because he alone could, 
she thinks, prove her guiltless. All things conspire against 
her — her very tears, her prayers, her asseverations give 
countenance to her guilt. She is hurled headlong down the 
precipice, but, alas ! not killed at once. The strong young 
life vAll not leave its tenement — ^the mortal agony is pro- 
longed—even the dagger's thrust, which is meant in mercy 
that she may not " linger in her pain," is not enough. The 
soul cannot away xmtil it asserts the purity of the sweet 
casket in which it has been set. It lingers on in pain until 
the poor body can speak, not, as before, to deaf ears that will 
not listen, but to those of a sympathising woman. Then, 
with bitter moans and broken breath, Desdemona stammers 
out with her last gasp of life — " A guiltless death I die ! " 

When asked who has done this deed, she says, "Nobody; 
I myself." As in the senate-house, before the council, she 
took all the blame upon herself, so here, once more, and with 
her dying breath, she does the same. I did it all — " I my- 
self/* Blame no one else, " Commend me to my kind lord : 
O, farewell ! " 

Commend me to my brave warrior! Of what higher 

ia glowing terms to my D ex i c m onm^ Amid mudi else, he said he had nerer 
Mt the play so deeply before. One phrase especially struck me — ** It quite 
hurt him to see the fair, delicate creature so brutally used." Would that 
I ooold give an idea of his tone and accent^ genUe and tremulous, as if a 
sttAring, Uxing creature were there before him ! I quote from my Diaiy, 
N<yrattber 24, 1S7S. 

Desdemona. 97 

heroism than this — of what nobler love — has history or 
romance any record? 

Mr Macready was very fine in this scene. There was an 
impressive grandeur, an elevation even, in his ravings : — 

" Whip me, ye devils. 
From the poesession of this heavenly sight ! 
Blow me about in winds ! roast me in sulphur ! 
Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire ! — 
Desdemona ! Desdemona ! — dead ! dead ! dead ! " 

As I lay there and listened, he seemed to me to be like a 
soul in hell, whirling in the second circle of the Inferno. 
And there was a piteousness, a pathos, in his reiteration 
of the loved one's name that went to my very heart Oh, 
how it ached, too, for Othello, when his eyes were opened, 
and he could see and trace the paltry threads by which his 
soul and body had been ensnared, and when I heard the 
broken accents of his shame at having sunk so low as to 
conspire in Cassio's death! 

And now the worst is past. The play begins in night with 
huny and turmoil; in night, and what a night, it endsl 
There are glorious days of perfect happiness between, but 
they are few, and the last of them overshadowed with clouds 
" consulting for foul weather," and giving portentous presage 
of a terrible catastrophe. But not with storm and turmoil 
does the last night come. The deep blue sky is studded with 
"chaste stars," not a breath is stirring, and the lapping of 
the Levantine sea against the castle rock is alone heard 
through the stillness ; while '' the sweetest innocent that e'er 
did lift up eye " is cruelly done to death by him that loved 
her best. 


98 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

As we " look upon the tragic loading of that bed/' we are 
not without comfort. Truly it is best so. The wrench which 
had been given to the bond by which these two noble lovers 
were united could never be repaired on earth. Life could 
never again have been to them the same as in their brief days 
of happiness. The delusion which made Othello mad has 
been rent from his eyes. He must rejoin her who died 
with a message for him on her lips. No fear that when 
they "meet at compt" her look will "hurl his soul from 
heaven." Her infinite love and pity will think but of his 
sufferings, and will plead for the forgiveness he dares not 
ask for himself. 

Another victim lies near them, and one who has become 
almost hallowed by her death. 

Whatever may have been Emilia's life before, we must 
feel for her now. She has truly loved and honoured Des- 
demona, all the more that, to her common nature, and with 
her rough experience of the world, her mistress reveals a 
purity and elevation of spirit of which she had never before 
so much as dreamed. We cannot forgive the part she plays 
in giving the dropped handkerchief to her husband, instead of 
returning it to her lady, knowing how she values it — ^how she 
keeps it " always by her .to kiss and talk to." Although she 
has misgivings as to the use her husband means to make of it, 
yet she gives it to " please his fantasy." She hears Desde- 
mona deplore its loss — " Where should I lose that handker- 
chief, Emilia ? " Yet she can answer, " I know not, madam." 
She hears the Moor's wild burst of passion when Desdemona 
owns she "has it not about her"; she knows that its absence 
has made him jealous ; she sees her mistress plunged in grief 

Desdemomm^ 99 

Cor its losB. and tK keeps sQence: Xothing csn excuse thsl 
sileDoe, noC eren her drad of lier IiiisImlikI, bmtjJ as she knew 
him to be— this * honesi, bonesl lago * ! £3^ ooold have told 
them of what metal he urns made. 

Stin she eypiates her wrcmg-doii^ with her life. With 
that last interriew of only an hoar ago in her thoughts^ the 
old ballad still sounding in her ears, wh^i she next sees her 
sweet mistress it is to find her breathless— djring frcun a 
▼iolait and most unnatural death. Well may she say, " Oh, 
this grief will kill me !" Bat she has yet to learn the share 
which she herself has had in this dismal tragedy — to learn 
that the handkerchief she stole and gave to her husband, Des- 
demona had been accused of giving to Cassia At last she 
speaksw Thon^ late, she will make what reparation she can, 
and she does it unflinchingly. Her husband's threats and his 
commands that she shall go home do not stop her. She en* 
treats of the others leave to speak, "lis proper I obey 
him, but not now. Perchance, lago, I will ne'er go home." 
No ! there is no more home for any of them. What has she 
more to live for ? Better die, as she does, by lago's sword, 
than drag out a life of remorse for disloyalty to her mistress. 
That mistress is the one sole creature of whom she can now 
think, and with her dying breath she reiterates to Othello 
the asseverations of her innocence. "She loved thee, cruel 
Moor; ... so speaking as I think, I die, I die;" and 
her last words are a prayer that she may be laid by her 

mistress's side. 

We have learned from Gratiano that Brabantio is dead. 
No doubt when he returned from the ducal palace to his 
desolate home, Brabantio would become alive to the reality 

icx) Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

that his daughter had been its veiy light and life. Self- 
reproaches would rise to fill her place and embitter his lone- 
liness, reminding him of all he might have been to her, but 
had not been. The maiden, so tender, so unobtrusive, had a 
magic in her presence not consciously known or felt, until 
lost, which filled his home and life with blessings, and with- 
out which their charm was gone, and so the old senator died 
quickly — " pure grief shore his old thread in twain." 

Of Cassio what shall be said ? The two creatures he most 
admired and loved have been brought to ruin, and chiefly 
through him ! By his own folly in the brawl with Eoderigo 
he will be apt to think he laid the groundwork for lago's 
plot. He will remember that it was lago who first urged 
him to appeal to Desdemona to get him reinstated. Nor 
can he fail to learn how his importunity and her kindness — 
" Your solicitor shall rather die than give your cause away !" 
— ^helped to bring about the woful catastrophe. If so, what 
unhappiness is before him ! It will take long years to deaden 
the thought that, but for his fatal weakness, no intercession 
would have been necessary, and all would have gone welL 
A great gap has been made in his life. He will never be 
quite the same man again, though he may be a better and 
a wiser one. Neither Cyprus nor Venice will hold him long. 
He will get back, I think, to Florence and to the books and 
studies of his youth. Ever present with him will be the image 
of the victims of the " misadventured piteous overthrow " in 
which he had unwittingly played so prominent a part. But 
for him there will be one " enskyed and sainted " above all 
her sex— one who will keep alive for him his faith in woman, 
his hopes of the hereafter, when the mysteries of " all this 

Desdemona. loi 

unintelligible world " shall be solved ; and that one will be 
— "the divine Desdemona." 

Adieu, my friend. I have told you, as you wished me, 
what I thought about the three important female characters 
in Shakespeare to which you believed the least justice had 
been done. Would I had held your pen to write with! 

Ever affectionately yours, 

To Miss Geraldine E. Jewsburt. 

[Before this letter was despatched, I learned that the dear 
friend for whom it was intended had sunk into a state of 
unconsciousness. As it was written, however, so I leave 
it, praying forbearance for what in it is merely personal — 
the trifles which would have given it a special value in her 

H. F. M. 

81 Onslow Square, London, S.W., 
February 12, 1881. 




31 Ohblok Squabi, GlA /amiary ISSI. 

" So ihows a anowy dove trooping with crows, 
An jroiider ladj o'er her fellows «1iowb." 

jlOU ask me to write to you, dear Mend, of 
Juliet, and of all my earliest dreams about 
her. Whose bidding should I heed, if not 
yours, my always loving, indulgent, constant 
friend ? But indeed you hardly realise how 
difficult is the task you have set me. Of tiie characters 
about which I wrote to our dear Miss Jewsbury, I could 
speak as of beings outside, as it were, my own personality ; 
bat Joliet seems inwoven with my life. Of all characters, 
here ia the one which I have found the greatest difficult, bat 

io6 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

also the greatest delight, in acting. My early girlhood's first 
step upon the stage was made as Juliet. To the last days 
of my artist life I never acted the character without finding 
fresh cause to marvel at the genius which created this child- 
woman, raised by love to heroism of the highest type. 

It was at the little theatre beside the Green at Bichmond ^ 
that I first played Juliet ; and Sichmond is therefore indelibly 
associated with the Juliet of my early youth. I will tell you 
why. My holidays were passed there, for there my family 
always spent some of the summer months. The small house 
on the Green, in which we were often left, with a kind old 
servant in charge, looks to me even now like a home. Every 
step of the Green, the river-banks, the fields round Sion 
House, the Hill, the Park, and Twickenham Meadows, were 
all loved more and more as each summer enlarged my sense 
of beauty. One of my earliest and most vivid recollections — 
I was then quite a child — was a meeting with ''the great 
Edmund Kean^' as my sister called him. He was her pet 
hero. She had seen him act, and, through friends, had a 
slight acquaintance with him. Wishing her little "birdie," 
as she called me, to share all her pleasures, she often took me 
with her to the Green for the chance of seeing him, as he 
strolled there with his aunt, old Miss TidswelL The great man 
had been very ill, so that our expectations had been frequently 
disappointed. At last, about noon one very warm stmny day, 
my sister's eager eyes saw the two figures in the far distance. 
It would have been bad manners to appear to be watching, so 

^ Ab these sheeta Are pMsing through the press (March 1885), I read, not 
without a pang, that this little theatre, after sinking into a state of pitiable 
decay. Is being puUed down. 

Juliet. 107 

in a roundabout way our approach was made. As we drew 
near, I would gladly have run away. I was startled, frightened 
at what I saw, — ^a small pale man with a fur cap, and wrapped 
in a fur cloak. He looked to me as if come from the grave. 
A stray lock of very dark hair crossed his forehead, under 
which shone eyes which looked dark, and yet bright as lamps. 
So large were they, so piercing, so absorbing, I could see no 
other feature. I shrank from them behind my sister, but she 
whispered to me that it would be unkind to show any fear, so 
we approached, and were kindly greeted by the pair. 

Oh what a voice was that which spoke ! It seemed to 
come from so far away — ^a long, long way behind him. After 
the first salutation, it said, '' Who is this little one ? " When 
my sister had explained, the face smiled — (I was reassured by 
the smile, and the face looked less terrible) — and he asked me 
where I went to school and which of my books I liked best 
Alas ! I could not then remember that I liked any, but my 
ever good angel-sister said she knew I was fond of poetry, 
for I had just won a prize for recitation. Upon this the fttoe 
looked still more kindly at me, and we all moved together to 
a seat under the trees. Then the far-away hollow voice, — ^but 
it was not harsh, — spoke again, as he put his hand in mine, and 
bade me tell him whether I liked my school-walks better than 
the walks at Bichmond. This was too much, and it broke the 
ice of my silence. No, indeed ! Greenwich Park was very 
pretty — so was Blackheath, with its donkeys, when we were, 
on occasions much too rare, allowed to ride them. But Bich- 
mond ! Nothing could be so beautiful ! I was asked to name 
my favourite spots, and whether I had ever been in a punt— 
which I had, — and caught fish — which I had not My tongae« 

io8 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

once untied, ran on and on, and had after a time to be stopped, 
for my sister and the old lady-aunt thought I should fatigue 
the invalid. But he would not part just yet. He asked my 


name, and when it was told, exclaimed, ^ Oh, the old ballad ! 
— do you know it ?— which begins, — 

* Oh, my Helen, 
There is no tellin' 
Why love I fell in ; 
The grave, my dwellin', 
Would I were well in I * 

I know now why with *my Helen, love I fell in ;* it is because 
she loves poetiy, and she loves Bichmond. Will my Helen 
come and repeat her poetry to me some day ?" This alarm- 
ing suggestion at once silenced my prattle, and my sister had 
to express for me the pleasure and honour I was supposed 
to f eeL 

Here the interview ended. The kind hand was withdrawn 
which had lain in mine so heavily, and yet looked so thin and 
smalL I did not then know how great is the weight of weak- 
ness. It was put upon my head, and I was bid (rod-speed ! 
I was to be sent for some day soon. But the day never came ; 
the school-days were at hand ; those wondrous eyes I never 
saw, and that distant voice I never heard again. 

How vividly some things remain with us! I can shut my 
eyes and recall the whole scene, — see and hear all that passed, 
and thrill again with my old fright and pleasure ! The actual 
words I have mentioned, and many more that passed, doubt- 
less would not have remained with me, if I had not heard 
them repeated often and often by my sister. She was as 
proud of this little episode in my young life as if a king had 

Juliet. 109 

noticed me ; and she spoke of her great hero's kind words to 
me so constantly, — telling them to all our friends, — ^that they 
became riveted in my memory. A day or two afterwards my 
sister met Miss Tidswell, who told her that Mr Kean had not 
suffered from his walk, and had often spoken of the little 
sweet-voiced maiden, who could be dumb, and yet full of 
talk when the right note was struck. He was very fond, 
she said, of children, and would like the little sister to pay 
him an early visit But this was not to be. He must have 
recovered from the iUness which prevented him from sending 
for me, for I heard of his acting in London afterwards, and 
felt all a child's pride in having once attracted the attention 
of a distinguished man. And who so distinguished, so in- 
veked with charm for a girl's imagination, aa the tragic hero 
of the day ? 

I cannot remember if the house into which I saw him go 
was the small house attached to the Bichmond theatre, which 
I have heard belonged to him at the time of his death. With 
that little house are linked remembrances of mine very deep 
and lasting. In the parlour I dressed, not many years after- 
wards, for the part of Juliet, to make my first appearance on 
the stage. How this came about was somewhat singular. 
We were, as usual, in our summer quarters at Richmond. 
At this time a Mr Willis Jones was the lessee of the little 
theatre: he was, it was said, a gentleman of independent 
fortune, who had a great desire to be something more than 
an amateur actor. The performances took place about twice 
or thrice a-week. The stage-door of the theatre was alwajrs 
open, and on the ofT days of performance we sometimes stole 
in and stood upon that, to me, weirdly mysterious place, the 

I lo Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

stage, kmkiiig into the ^oom of the vacant pit and boxes. 
How fidl of mjaterj it all seemed I so dim, so impenetrable ! 
One hot afternoon my sister and myself, finding it yet too 
sonny to walk down to the river — ^we had to pass the theatre 
on the way — took refoge in the dark cool place to rest awhile. 
On the stage was a flight of steps, and a balcony, left standing 
no donbt after rehearsal, or prepared for that of the next day. 
After sitting on the steps for a while, my sister exclaimed, 
*'Why, this mi^it do for Bomeo and Juliet's balcony! Gro 
up, hirdie, and I will be your Borneo." Upon which, amid 
mnch laughter, and with no little stumbling over the words, 
we went through the balcony scene, I being prompter; 
for in the lonely days by the sea-shore, of which I have 
spoken, with only the great kind dog of the house as my 
companion, I had, almost unconsciously, learned by heart all 
the scenes in which my favourite heroines figured. 

I may say that, in those days, Juliet, like the other hero- 
ines of my &n<7, was attractive to me principally through 
what she had to sufTer, in which the horror of her tomb, 
''the being 9i\jUd in the vault,** always my first terror, played 
a prominent part Our school-walks from Greenwich took 
us at times to Lee churchyard, where there was a vault that 
to my imagination was altogether terrible. A flight of green, 
slimy-looking steps led down to a massive door with open 
iron-work at the upper part, and we girls used to snatch a 
fearful pleasure by peering through it into the gloom within. 
My &vourite school-friend was a Grerman girl, with a very 
pretty face, but in figure so ungainly that she was the despair 
of our dancing-master. She shared my dread of the terrible, 
and also the attraction I felt towards it Over this vault we 

Juliet. Ill 

often talked, and we both agreed that in just sucsh a tomb 
must Juliet have been placed. We had seen the toads and 
frogs hopping about in and near it, and devoutly did we hope 
that Juliet's face was covered. For, oh the horror for her 
to have a cold flabby toad upon it ! And then, had we not 
read of " worms that were her chamber-maids " ? — an awful 
suggestion to the literal mind of young girls. How we 
rejoiced that, when she really awoke, she saw by her side 
the " comfortable friar " ! To most young minds, I suppose, 
the terrible and the tragic are always the most alluring. 
Certainly at that time the fourth and fifth acts of lUmuo 
and Jvliet weighed heavier in the balance with me than 
the earlier and happy ones. Of the passion of love I had 
then naturally no knowledge. It did not interest me. But 
Juliet's devotion to Bomeo, and her resolve to die rather 
than prove untrue, this I could understand, because all the 
heroes and heroines worthy of the name, of whom I had 
read, were always true and devoted. 

But I have wandered far from this, to me, memorable after- 
noon at Richmond. My sister and I went away to the river, 
leaving the shadowy gloom of the stage empty as we had 
found it. To our surprise and consternation we learned, some 
little time after, that there had been a listener. When our 
friends arrived some days later, the lessee told them that, 
having occasion to go from the dwelling-house to his private 
box, he had heard voices, listened, and remsdned during the 
time of our merry rehearsal. He spoke in such warm terms of 
the Juliet's voice, its adaptability to the character, her figure, 
— I was tall for my age, — and so forth, that in the end he 
prevailed upon my friends to let me make a trial on his stage. 

112 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

To this, at my then very tender age, they were loath to consent. 
But I was to be announced simply as a young lady, — ^her first 
appearance. At the worst, a failure would not matter ; and, 
at any rate, the experiment would show whether I had gifts 
or not in that direction. Thus did a little frolic prove to be 
the turning-point of my life. As I recall those days, and the 
interval that followed before my dAhU on the London stage, 
where also I was announced to make my first appearance as 
Juliet, all my young life seems wrapped up in her. You can 
see, therefore, how difficult it must be to divest myself of the 
emotions inseparable from her name sufficiently to write of 
her with critical calmness. 

Before I attempt to do so, let me complete my gossiping 
account of my first appearance at Bichmond. It was a 
summer evening, and the room was given me to dress in, 
which, I was told, had been Mr Kean's parlour and dressing- 
room. There was a glass case there in which were preserved 
as relics several articles of his toilet, brushes and things of 
that kind. How these brought to my mind that interview 
—the fraU figure which seemed buried in furs, the large 
eyes so intense in their lustre, the dark hair straggling 
over the forehead, the voice coming from so far away, and 
the kind quaint manner! I could now see how he had 
humoured the shy child by pretending ignorance, in order 
to draw forth her opinions and explanations. It was very 
sweet to look back upon, and I could almost believe that his 
spirit was there in sympathy with mine; had not his parting 
words to me been — a God-speed ? Very vdsely, no one had 
ever mentioned in my hearing the word "stage fright." I 
had thought of the performance only as another rehearsal. 

Juliet. 113 

with the difference that it was at night and not by day, and 
with the great additional pleasure of wearing a new dress 
of white satin, which was so soft and exquisite to the touch, 
and — oh the dignity of this ! — with a small train to it It 
had no ornament, not even a flower ; for when I heard that 
I must not wear real flowers, for fear of their dropping on 
the stage and some one slipping upon them, I would not have 
any others. As the time for the play to begin approached, 
and I heard the instruments tuning, and a voice cry out that 
'' the overture was on," I felt a most unaccountable sensation 
stealing over me. This feeling grew and grew until it nearly 
overcame me. I saw my mother looking very anxiously at 
me, and I could not hide from myself that I felt good for 
nothing. I begged her to leave me to myself for a few 
minutes. At first she did not gather what was in my mind, 
and tried to rally my courage ; but again I begged to be left^ 
for I knew well that when alone I could more freely seek 
the help which all so suddenly I seemed to need more than 
I ever could have guessed. My wish was granted. They 
did not return to me until I was wanted for the stage. I 
remember being asked if I had left anything behind, when 
I turned to give a last look at the relics in the glass case. 
It was a sort of farewell — a feeling as if life were ending. 

My sister, to give me comfort, was to be the Lady Capulet 
Poor darling! she was so agitated that they could hardly 
persuade her to appear on the scene; and when the nurse 
had called out for the " lamb," the " ladybird " (your " lady- 
bird," you know, ever after), the Juliet rushed straight into 
her mother's arms, never to be lured from them again during 
the scene by all the cajolings of the nurse. How the lights 


1 14 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

perplexed me ! All seemed so dififerent ! I could see faces 
so close to me. It was well I could see one whose agitation 
was apparent to me on the instant. I felt I must try to 
please him, this dear friend of all my young Ufc, my constant 
helpCT and instructor, who, though he was no blood relative, 
always called me " his child." He it was who taught me much 
of what I learned, after my delicate health took me from school, 
and sent me to the sea-shore. To him and him only could I 
confide, with the assurance of perfect sympathy, all my devo- 
tion for the heroines of Shakespeare. He taught me the value 
of the different metres in blank verse and in rhyme, as I 
recited to him many of Milton's poems, the " Lycidas," large 
portions of " Paradise Lost," and Byron's " Darkness," which 
I knew by heart. He made me understand the value of 
words, nay, of every letter of every word, for the purposes of 
declamation. Nothing was to be sUghted. This true friend 
— a man of varied and large acquirements, a humorist, too, 
and a wit — never refused, although most delicate in health, 
to give me largely of his time. How grateful I was, and 
am to him ! His death, which happened far too soon for my 
advantage — though not for his, it released him from a life of 
pain — robbed me of my first and truest guide and friend. It 
was his face I saw. Should his " child," his darling, give him 
pain— disappointment ? No ! Gradually he and Juliet filled 
my mind, and I went on swimmingly until the fourth act 

Here, with all the ardour and all the ignorance of a novice, 
I took no heed that the phial for the sleeping potion, which 
Friar Laurence had given me, was of glass, but kept it tightly 
in my hand, as though it were a real deliverance from a 
dreaded fate which it was to effect for me, through the long 

Juliet. 115 

impassioned scene that follows. When the time came to 
drink tlie potion, there was none; for the phial had been 
crushed in my hand, the fragments of glass were eating their 
way into the tender palm, and the blood was trickling do¥m 
in a little stream over my pretty dress. This had been for 
some time apparent to the audience, but the Juliet knew 
nothing of it, and felt nothing, until the red stream arrested 
her attention. Excited as I already was, this was too much 
for me ; and having always had a sickening horror of the bare 
sight or even talk of blood, poor Juliet grew fsdnt, and went 
staggering towards the bed, on which she really fainted. I 
remember nothing of the end of the play, beyond seeing many 
kind people in my dressing-room, and wondering what this 
meant. Our good family doctor from London was among the 
audience, and bound up the wounded hand. This never 
occurred again, because they ever afterwards gave me a 
wooden phiaL But oh, my dress ! — my first waking thought. 
I was inconsolable, until told that the injured part could be 

So much for my first Juliet! I repeated the character 
several times in the same little theatre — each time trying to 
make it more like what I thought would satisfy my dear 
master. I sought no other praise. 

On the last occasion he was there. When I saw him at 
the end of the play J was sure something was wrong. He 
was very silent, and when I begged to have his opinion, what- 
ever it might be, he told me I had not improved, — that I had 
disappointed him. I was not in the character throughout, 
and he feared I Iiad not the true artistic power to lose myself 
in the being of another. Oh the pain this caused me ! The 

1 1 6 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

wound is even now only scaxred over. I would not let him 
see my grief, but I knew no sleep that night for weeping. 
My generous sweet sister thought I had been cruelly treated, 
and tried to comfort me and heal my wounds, but they were 
far too deep for that. 

Next day my dear friend was deeply pained to see that I 
had taken his censure so sorely to heart, and had forgotten 
how, here and there, it had been tempered with approbation. 
After some talk with my mother, it was decided that Juliet 
and all other heroines were for me to pass once more into 
" the sphere of dream." I was quietly to forget them and 
return to my studies. My friend confessed that he had 
expected too much from my tender years — ^that an English 
girl of the age which Shakespeare assigns to Juliet was in 
every respect a different creature. Development must come 
later; I certainly was never a precocious child. So until I 
appeared about three years later on the London stage, my life 
was very studious and very quiet. 

How good and tender and helpful that dear friend was to 
me ever after, and how repentant for having caused me that 
bitter night of sorrow, taking all the blame upon himself, and 
declaring that he had no right to look for what he did in one 
so young I Doubtless he was wrong in expecting too much ; 
but the lesson I then learned was never forgotten. He saw 
and helped me in every other character I acted until his too 
early death, which was the first great sorrow of my life. 
Gtenerous heart, I hope your own could tell you how loving 
and how grateful mine was ! 

The last night he saw me act at Drury Lane, he had almost 
to be carried to his private box. He died about ten days 

Juliet. 117 

after. Never can I forget how good and thoughtful for me 
Mr Macready proved himself at this time. I had something 
very important and difficult to study at a short notice — I 
forget what. It was drawing towards the end of a season in 
which my work had been most exhausting. I was very iU 
and tired, so that my memory, usually quick enough, seemed 
to fail me. I grew nervous, and told Mr Macready that even 
by sitting up at night I feared I could not be ready at the time 
he wished. This engrossing study accounted for my not seeing 
my dear friend for some days together— only sendmg to his 
house daily to inquire after him. During one of those nights 
that I was spending in study — ^the night before its results 
were to be made public — ^he died. This was kept from me, 
but word of the sad event was sent in the morning to Mr 
Macready. As my acting that night was of the utmost 
importance, he sent me a kind note, asking me to go to him 
directly at the theatre, share his little dinner there, and go 
quietly over^with him the scenes which were making me 
nervous, telling me he was quite sure he could put me at 
my ease. I accepted his invitation, and his gentle kindness 
I shall ever remember with gratitude. As the afternoon 
wore on, he sent for my dresser, and told her to make me 
lie down for an hour or two before I thought of dressing 
for the stage. I had a lurking feeling through the day 
that something was happening, all looked at me so earnestly 
and kindly, but what trouble was hanging over me I could 
not even guess, because the last news given to me of my 
friend before I left home had been reassuring. 

When the performance was over, or my port of it, Mr 
Macready met me as I was leaving the theatre, and put a 

1 1 8 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

letter into my hand, giving me the impression that it was 
upon business, — I was tired) he said, and the morning would 
be the best time to read it. Its object really was to tell me 
of his sympathy, and to offer what comfort he could, for he 
knew well how dear was the friend whom I had lost. How- 
ever, as my great struggle of the night was over, I insisted, in 
spite of all the remonstrances of my maid, on calling at my 
friend's house, which we had to pass on the way home, and I 
got out of the carriage to make my own inquiries. The sur- 
prised and frightened look of the servant who opened the 
door told me everything, and I saw at once why all had 
combined to keep me in ignorance throughout the day. Then 
I understood how thoughtful Mr Macready had been* His 
letter was most kind. He gave me some days' rest to 
face my trouble, although, as the close of the season was 
near, he must have been put to extreme inconvenience by 
my absence. 

Oh the sharpness of that grief! The prelude, too, of 
another trial ; for suddenly Mr Macready gave up the man- 
agement of Drury Lane and went to America. Another 
friend lost ! He had been four years at the head of a theatre 
— two at Covent Garden and two at Drury Lane — doing 
his very best to raise the tone of the stage to a level worthy 
of its great poet; while those whom, like myself, he had 
gathered round him, gladly seconded his efforts, and followed 
his guidance.^ 

^ I have often Been it stated, that Mr Macready abandoned the management 
of Drury Lane Theatre because he lost money by it. This was not sa The 
theatre had so prospered under his management, that the proprietors, selfishly 
dewrfng to profit by a prosperity not of their own creating, demanded an in- 
creased rent This so angered Mr Macready that he declined to renew his 
lease, and went away to America. 

Juliet. 119 

To me the breaking up of this establishment was a heavy 
blow indeed. Severe as my labours had been, the delight 
in them far more than outweighed the fatigue. Drury Lane 
Theatre, conducted as it then was, was an arena in which 
every gift I had foimd scope for exercise. My studies were 
all of an elevating character : my thoughts were given to the 
great types of womanhood, drawn by Shakespeare's master- 
hand, or by the hands of modem poets — Browning, Marston, 
Troughton, Bulwer Lytton, and others — ^anxious to maintain 
the reputation of the national drama. My audiences, kind 
from the first, grew ever more and more kind to me, and I 
felt among them as among friends. Now an end to all this 
had come — "the world seemed shattered at my feet." En- 
gagements were offered to me in many theatres ; in one case 
I was even asked to assume the ofGice of directress. But I 
shrank from the responsibilities of such a position, and felt 
that, for my own interests as an artist, it was not well to 
allow myself to be hampered by thenu 

Sick and sad at heart, it was then that the kindness of 
you, my dear friend, and others like you, cheered my droop- 
ing spirits, and encouraged me to believe that I could walk 
alone — nay, that a chance which seemed then a calamity 
might ultimately prove an advantage to me in my art, by 
leaving me to develop what was in me, relieved from the 
overmastering influence of Mr Macready's style. Young 
in my art as I was — although the whole weight of every 
leading female character had, since my d£but^ rested on 
my shoulders — all my friends agreed that engagements for 
a week or two at a time in the leading provincial theatres 
would be the best practice for me. I could thus^ too, 

1 20 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

take rest in the intervals between my various engagements, 
— ^rest so necessary for me, overtaxed as my strength had 
continually been since the beginning of my professional 
career. Both then and afterwards, I could never have been 
equal to the strain upon heart and brain and body, but for 
the summer months, in which I always took holiday, passing 
them quietly among my Mends. 

It was with a sad heart enough that I started on my first 
engagement out of London, — for Mr Macready had always 
told me that it was in London I must make my home, as 
no provincial audience would care for or understand my 
style. I took Edinburgh first, and had a sufficiently cold 
reception from a house far from full. I had gone, as I 
always made it my rule to go, wherever I went, without 
any heralds in advance to proclaim my coming or to sound 
my praises. However, the lessee and manager, Mr Murray, 
a man of great ability and many accomplishments, who acted 
Colonel Damas to my Pauline in Tht Lady of Lyons, this 
first night of my experience there, told me not to be dis- 
heartened. He felt sure, he said, I had taken hold of my 
audience, and that this was the only indifferent house before 
which I should ever have to act. The event proved that 
he knew his pubUc ; his prophecy, indeed, was more than 
realised, for neither there nor elsewhere did I ever again 
play to an indifferent house. Of want of enthusiasm or of 
constancy in my provincial audiences no one could have had 
less reason to complain, nor had I ever occasion from that 
hour to be reminded of what Mr Macready had predicted. 
Had the state of the theatres la London been such as to 
admit of my joining them, I would willingly have done 

Juliet, 121 

so. I longed for my London audiences, who had been so 
kind, so true, so sympathetic in my earliest efforts. And 
although for some little time I only came before them 
at intervals and for short engagements, yet they always 
made me feel that I was not forgotten, and that they were 
as quick as ever to go along with me in my efforts to 
interpret the heart and nature of woman, as drawn by our 

But let me go back to my earliest days. Nearly three years, 
as I have said, elapsed, after my first girlish experiments, 
before I again trod the stage, — ^not this time the tiny stage 
of Bichmond, but the vast stage of Covent Garden, and before 
an audience that filled the theatre from floor to ceiling. The 
interval, spent in quiet study, had widened my views about 
many things, Jidiet included. Still I remained true to my 
first love; and when it was decided that I should submit 
myself to the dread ordeal of a London audience, to ascertain 
whether I possessed the qualities to justify my friends in 
allowing me to adopt the stage as a profession, I ^elected 
Juliet for my first appearance. I rehearsed the part, and 
was announced to appear in it. During the rehearsals, Mr 
Charles Kemble who was taking his leave of the stage, was 
always present, seated in the front of the dark theatre. On 
his judgment and that of one or two others, I believe the 
manager was to decide whether, having no experience or 
practice in the actor's art, I was fit to make an appearance 
before a London audience. I was not told at the time 
through what an ordeal I was passing. Mr Kemble gave 
judgment in my favour, and was to have taken the part of 
Mercutio. How sympathetic, and courteous, and encourag- 

122 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

ing he was ! He, to use his own words to me, was making 
his final bow to his art, as I my first curtsey. 

Unhappily for me, the rehearsals showed that the Eomeo 
of the theatre — the only one available at the time — was of 
too mature an age to act with so young a Juliet when she 
came before an audience on YiQx^dAhU, A little later on, I 
did a^t the character with him. He was an excellent actor 
in his way, but very vehement, — so much so that, when he 
played Bomeo, my sister would never trust me in the tomb 
alone. He shook it so violently with the crowbar, that she 
used to declare, if she had not been there to play the part 
of a caryatid, and help to hold it up, the frail fabric would 
have dropped to pieces on my head. Oh ! if I had not had 
a very different Bomeo in my imagination, it would have 
been hard indeed to make one out of such an unromantic 
spluttering lover ! When Mr Macready undertook the man- 
agement soon after, Mr James Anderson joined the company, 
and I had in him a very gallant Bomeo. Discretion tempered 
his fire. 

Judge of my dismay when, a short time before my €U}mt, 
I was told that I must forego Juliet, and appear as Julia in 
Hu Hunchback, I was almost heart-broken. But it was 
too late to recede ; and as Julia I had to appear. How much 
this added to the terrible tension of feeling with which I 
approached the trial which was either to " make me or undo 
me quiter," none but myself can ever know. You, my dear 
friend, were there, as you have told me, and you know, as 
a spectator, what a fearful ordeal I had to pass through. 
On this occasion I had no loving sister's arms to rush 
into; but I remember gratefully how kind Miss Taylor 



y,/v. '^/./../ 

Juliet 123 

was to me; she was the Helen of that evening, as she 
had been the original Helen of the play. At the rehearsals 
she had given me valuable advice as to the stage directions, 
&C., and during the actual performance she comforted and 
supported me with all her might, and with all the fine tact 
of a sympathetic heart. 

How well I remember that awful moment when called to 
the side -scene to be ready for my entrance with Helen! 
Seeing my agitation, Miss Taylor set herself to divert my 
attention by admiring my dress. She liked, she said, the 
yellowish whiteness of it ; she could not endure a harsh dead 
white. Where had mamma, who was standing beside us, got 
me such dainty mittens ? Then she showed me her own — 
said how fortunate I was to have such long wavy hair that 
curled of its own accord, and did not need dressing, — ^wished 
hers was the same, and how she had to curl and pinch and 
torture it and herself, in order to get the same effect, — any 
talk to take off my attention. But as the dreadful moment 
drew nearer, this talk, all on one side, would no longer help. 
With sympathetic tears in her own eyes, she begged me not 
to let those big tears fall so continuously and spoil my 
pretty cheeks ; and when the terrible moment came for our 
entrance, she put her arm round my waist, and propelled 
me forward, whispering to me to "curtsey to the applause 
— again! again!" — when, but for her help, I could hardly 
stand. « 

It must have been plain to the audience how good she 
was to me ; and they, no doubt, favourite as she was, liked 
her all the better for it. I cannot but think what a differ- 
ent play The Hunchback was then, when Helen was inter- 

] 24 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

pieled by this lady. Her lefinement of maimer took away 
nottiiiig from the archness and piquancy of her scenes with 
Modus, bat rather added to them. He, too, appeared as a 
real student, not unmannerly and dull from want of breed- 
ing and sense, but only awkward from abstraction and 
absorption in his book-lore. It was sheer fnnaii, and not 
forwardness, that made Helen in the dull coontiy - house 
amuse herself with him. I shudder to think to what I have 
seen these scenes reduced. Latterly, indeed, I declined to 
act in this play, because I did not like to be mixed up, 
even indirectly, with such misinterpretations.^ It is woful 
that an author's words and meaning should be d^raded by 
such tones and looks and manner, and Uiat audiences should 
be found ready to bear with, if not indeed to enjoy, these per- 
versions of his purpose. 

At the end of the first act the kind actors came about me, 
saying that it was '' all right" I had only to take courage 
and speak louder. But, alas ! I felt it was " all wrong." I 
could not control my fears and agitation. They gave me zal 
volatile in my dressing-room, which I gave mostly to my dress. 
My mother looked sad and disappointed ; the dear old dresser 

' In truth, I wiB not yerj sony to haye 'an exciue for giving up the 
porformanoe of a play which I never oordiiDy liked. Julia's character was one 
that really took no hold of my hearty therefore I always went to the imper- 
Bonation of it as a piece of taskwork. Some of the situatioiis are unquestion- 
Mj powerful They are, however, of a kind in which success will always be 
due as much to the individual power of the actress as to the author. By what 
she herself infuses into the character she must veil its inoongistenciee, and so 
animate it with feeling and passion as to make the audience forget the impro- 
babilities of the plot, and the somewhat unlovable qualities of the heroine, on 
which it turns. If the warm sympathy and applause of audiences could have 
made me like the part of Julia, I ought to have been fond of it ; but they 
were dearly bought at the cost of the severe strain upon my imagination and 
my emoiloQs, as well as the great physical fatigue which went to gain them. 

Juliet. 125 

very pitiful^ My sister, alas ! was not with me. I thought 
all was over, and did not see my way at all to getting through 
the play. Then came a knock at my dressing-room door, 
which my mother answered, and I heard the dear accustomed 
voice of my friend and master say, " Have you given the poor 
child anything ? " I cried out for him to come to me, but the 
voice answered, "Not now, my child; take all the rest you 
can." There was, I fancied, such a trouble in the tone, that it 
added to my own. It was evident he could not trust himself 
near me. He had been among the audience, but in that enor- 
mous theatre only a sea of heads was seen. No one could be 
distinguished ; so this time he had not helped me. I felt 
despairing. Never can I forget that half-hour. While I 
write, it comes back upon me With all its hopeless anguish. 
When we met at the side-scene for the second act, kind 
Miss Taylor again went through the admirer's part ; she liked 

^ This exoeUent woman, who was attached to my drenmg-room on this my 
first night as my attendant, never left me afterwards while I was permanently 
in London. We were attached to each other from that time. She never left 
my side except when I was on the stage, but attended with a shawl or cloak 
all my exits or entrances. She osed to be called my " duenna,** for she harried 
me away from those who might wish to speak or detain me, with, " I beg your 
pardon, my young lady has already only too little time to change her dress, 
or to rest in," as it might be. My mother had full confidence in this good 
woman's care of me, and with good cause. She had known her before she be- 
came, as she was now, a widow. The nursing of her husband in a long decline 
had exhausted her means, and caused her to seek the occupation in which I 
first knew her. The sweet, refined, unselfish, pure-minded woman was a great 
assistance and comfort to me. Silence was the order my mother had given 
as the rule for my dressing-room, — no talk to take my thoughts from the work 
I had in hand. I never knew the dear creature break it, except after the 
scenes where the nurse proves untrue to Juliet. Then her indignation knew 
no bounds ;— such treachery, such desertion of her charge in the hour of her 
trouble —nothing could be so wicked in her eyes ! Even the frequent repe- 
tition of the play hardly calmed her anger. This dear woman, whose Irare 
qualities I have never seen excelled, even in stations far above her own, 
reached her rest in 1883. 

1 26 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

my hat and feather, and my whole dress, — thought them very 
channing, very becoming, reminded me that now we were to 
change characters, — that I was to be the gay fine lady, and 
she only the listening astonished one. A very watery smile 
was, I am sure, all that answered her. When we entered upon 
the scene, and during the pause at the long kind reception 
which again awaited me, my eyes lighted on a familiar face 
raised above all the others, and close before me in the orchestra. 
Long white hair fell on each side of it, and I saw the hand- 
kerchief wiping tears from the eyes. Again a face saved me. 
I knew it was that of my dear grandfather, who, because of 
his deafness, was, during the play, allowed to occupy the 
leader^s seat. In an instant the thought flashed into my 
mind of the sad disappointment that was in store for these 
dear grand-parents, who had been real parents to me in all 
my earliest years, — the one present, and the other, the 
beloved Quaker grandmother, who had never in her life 
been inside a theatre. She was waiting in an agony of 
suspense, as I knew, at home, and her blessing had been the 
last thing on my heart as I left it. Oh, I could not endure 
to pain (kem I The help I needed, which I knew was even 
then being invoked for me, came. In a moment, as it 
seemed, my agitation calmed. My voice gained tone, and 
when the point arrived where I had to say "I'll shine, be 
sure I will," the kind audience interrupted me with a shout 
of applause. From this time I never faltered, always keeping 
the dear and now smiling face before me. 

At the end of the third act I was told the manager (not 
Mr Macready; he took the management a year later) had 
requested to see my friends to consult them about a three 

Juliet. 127 

years' engagement, which, as I was much under age, was signed 
by them for me the next morning, and attached me for that 
period to the theatre, as the leading actress. Thus was I 
bound to the art which has been the delight of my after-life, 
and the way opened for me to clothe — oh happy privilege ! — 
with form and motion the great creations of poetical genius 
over which my girlish imagination had so long brooded. 

Of Mr Charles Kemble's good opinion of me I have 
already spoken. When it was decided that the play should 
be changed to The, HuruJiback he offered to resume his original 
part of Sir Thomas Clifford to support me. Never can I 
forget his rendering of it. What a high and noble bearing I 
What tender respect in his approaches as a lover! What 
dignified forbearance and self-respect in his reproof afterwards, 
and in his deportment as the Secretary ! All this made the 
heroine's part more difficult to act ; for what girl, even the 
most frivolous, could for a moment have thought of the title 
or the fortune of such a man in comparison with himself ? 

In connection with that fijrst night in Covent Grarden, I 
must tell you a little anecdote of my Glerman schoolfellow. 
On that night a young girl was sitting near some of our 
friends. Throughout the performance she made herself very 
conspicuous by clapping her hands and breaking out into 
admiring but very disturbing exclamations. At last some 
one near ventured on a gentle remonstrance, and a remark 
that she could not be aware of the noise she was making. 
In reply she said, " Oh, please, do not mind, — really I cannot 
help it She was my schoolfellow, and I am so happy ! " It 
was explained to her between, the acts that she was speaking 
to friends who knew me. Upon this she became very con- 

1 28 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

fidential, told them many incidents of our school-days, and 
sent me more loves and messages than could be carried. 
But the ever-recurring refrain was, "Why had I been un- 
faithful to our school-love, Juliet, whose tomb in Lee church- 
yard we had so often dressed up with horrors, and in whose 
character she had heard of my appearing at Eichmond?" 
It was very hard to make her understand that there was no 
Bomeo to be had youthful enough for her old playmate's Juliet. 

Something of this was told me at the end of the second 
act of the play by my dear friend and master, who came 
to my room (this time) joyously, and being now assured that 
all was well, did his best to animate my courage. He made 
me laugh by his description of the vehemence of my young 
school-friend, and he was made the bearer of a message from 
me to her. She was to go the next day and tell our dear 
governess and her sister, near whom she lived, all about the 
night. This was such a lucky incident: it made me forget 
in part the dreaded audience, and filled my mind with fresh 
incentives to succeed, in order to give pleasure to all the dear 
friends whose thoughts I knew were with me. 

I said, in the beginning of this letter, that Juliet was 
inwoven with my life. Some of the reasons I have men- 
tioned, but there are others that touch me very deeply, 
which are inseparably linked with the character. 

My beloved only sister was with me in my dressing-room 
while acting Juliet during the last hours we were together in 
life. During that sad evening we talked of the sportive after- 
noon rehearsal at Eichmond in which she was my Someo, 
and all that had come out of it. We parted in the morning ; 
and oh, what a parting ! — she to sail that day with her hus- 

Juliet. 129 

band to America, where, in Boston, eighteen months after- 
wards, she died. By a strange coincidence, the first time I 
appeared after the fatal news reached me, I acted a portion 
of Juliet. The occasion was one of those unsatisfactory 
monster performances which had been arranged many weeks 
before, in order to make up the sum required for the statue 
of Mrs Siddons, now placed in Westminster Abbey. Mr 
Macready was requested to act in some scenes from Hen/ry 
the Fourth, and I to give the fourth act in Borneo and 
Juliet. What the other performances were, I do not re- 
member. The blow had fallen upon me only some ten days 
before, and it made me naturally unfit for exertion of any 
kind. But the committee wrote so pressingly to me, urging 
that to take my name from the programme would seriously 
affect the receipts, that at last I consented to make the 
effort, not caring much what became of me. How the whole 
misery of that time comes before me now! Mr Macready, 
who knew my sister, and therefore knew what her loss was to 
me, sent, and came to my dressing-room door, several times 
during the evening, asking after and pressing to see and say a 
few words to me. We had not met for some time. He was 
fulfilling his farewell engagements in the provinces, and oar 
paths were different. I felt that I could not bear his look of 
sympathy or words of kindness, and had to deny myself to 
him. Even the very sound of his voice heard at the door was 
all but too much for me. I had a duty before me, and I dared 
not break in upon the calm which I had forced upon myself. 
Over my Juliet's dress I threw a large flowing black veil, 
which I hugged to my heart as an outward proof of the 
mourning within it, and which, in some measure, comforted 


1 30 S/iakespeare s Female Characters. 

me. Besides, it also hid from me the kind faces which 
would, doubtless, meet mine at the side-scenes. 

The greetings of the audience did not move me. They did 
not know my grief, so I could bear them. I got on very well 
in the scene with the Friar. There was despair in it, but 
nothing that in any way touched upon my own trial. My 
great struggle was in Juliet's chamber when left alone. Then 
her desolation, her loneliness, became mine, and the rushing 
tears would have way. Happily the fearful images presented 
to Jidiet's mind of what is before her in the tomb soon sent 
softer feelings away; but how glad I was when the fancied 
sight of Tybalt's ghost allowed the grief that was in my heart 
to find vent in a wild cry of anguish as well as horror ! 

From Juliet's bed I was taken to my own, which kept me 
for many a long day. That is a night which I hardly dare to 
look back upon. Months and months followed, when the cry 
was ever in my heart for my loved one, whose loss was to 
me that of half my life. Can you wonder, then, what thoughts 
and memories Juliet stirs within me ? 

It shocks me to think how egotistical I must appear in 
recounting all these personal details. But in writing of these 
things, I look back upon myself as upon some other person. 
And then you, dear friend, and many other friends, have urged 
me so strongly to tell you of my own past in relation to the 
work I did, that you must share the blame with me. 

What I have to say of Shakespeare's Juliet must be re- 
served for another letter. — Ever your loving and grateful 
" Ladybird," 

To Mrs S. C. Hall. 







OnLOW Squau, 1881. 

" Tnut me, gentlenun, FU pror* more true 
Than tiicM UuA hftva mora cuaiiuig to be itrange." 

iET me try now, my dear friend, to apeak to yon 
of the real Juliet as she filled my imaginataon 
when the time came for me to ventore on 
impersonating her in London. In my first 
trials at Richmond I had ardour and self- 
forgetfulnees enough; but I was too young, too near the 
age of Shakespeare's Juliet, cooaideriog the tardier devel- 
opment of an Eugliah girl, to auderstand so Btxong and deep 
a nature; neither had my imagination the power to gnup 
the whole scope and purpose of the play ; and without this 

1 34 Shakespeare s Femude Characters 

m^cQtanerv be qofified to embodr one cf Shake- 
wfmr^B hamftk, ffidiefto I hid oohr knovii the oatmd 
Umm of the poef s exqidste cmtioii, and could not reMh the 
deqper JOfmmg thai lies beDeathit; indeed I nerer dioold 
hare reached it, had I not salseqemlT been allowed to see 
the real Shakespeare instead of the imperfect copjr, adapted 
for the stage, in which I originallT knew the plar. Xow a 
new li^lit broke in upon me. It was no longer only a love- 
itoij, the mo6t beautiful of all I had ever read, bat a tale 
where, as in the Greek dramas of which I had seen some 
glimpnes, the young and innocent were do(»ned to punish- 
ment in retribution for the guilt of kindred whose " bloody 
feuds ^ were to be expiated and ended by the death of their 

But eren then how little could I know! Although the 
torch had been put into my hand, I could only see what my 
small experience showed me. The wonderful proportion, the 
harmony, the loveliness and pathos, grew upon me only with 
my mental growth, and could not be grasped in unripe years. 
Besides, I needed above all things the practice in my art, 
whidi to the artist is the greatest help towards developing 
the poet's meaning, and which throws lights upon it that no 
study, however close, can give. In certain moods of mind 
the poet's intention may be read in this way as plainly as 
in an open book. The inspiration of the scene makes clear 
what before had not been even dreamed of, but which, once 
shown, is never to be forgotten or n^lected. I always tried 
to keep my mind open to such revealings, — tried not to repeat 
mechanically any part of any character, but always to go to 
it as though I had never acted it before. This was easy 

Juliet. 135 

enough in Shakespeare's plays, but veiy difficult in those of 
some other dramatists. 


With the complete play in my hands, I could not &il to 
see that the key-note was struck in the Prologue, where the 
whole purpose of the poet is told within the compass of a 
sonnet. It speaks of the bitter feuds of 'Hwo households" 
for whose rivalry lives were being sacrificed, and for whose 
''ancient grudge" the followers of both were continually 
breaking into " new mutiny." To teach a lesson to the reck- 
less leaders of those brawls, " bred of an airy word," it was 
necessaiy that each should suffer in his tenderest point, each 
lose his dearest hope, his only child — 

'* Whose misadventured piteous overthrows 
Do, with their death, btuy their parents' strife." 

Nor was the lesson to be read to them alone, but to those 
" rebellious subjects " also, those " enemies of peace," who 
helped by their violent partisanship to disturb the quiet and 
security of Verona's streets.* 

As if to emphasise the purpose shown in the Prologue, 
almost the last words in the play are those spoken by the 
Prince of Verona, whose kinsmen Mercutio and Paris had 
both fallen victims to a purely hereditary animosity 

'^ Capulet ! Montague ! 
See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, 
That Heaven finds means to kill your joys vrith love ! 
And I, for winking at your discords too, 
Have lost a brace of kinsmen : — all are punished." 

^ I considered thia prologue of so much importance for the audience, that 
when I last played Juliet at Drury Lane, in 1869, 1 used to speak it, do one 
else being inclined to undertake the task, with a silk domino thrown over my 
dress, and in front of a fine scene — painted many years before by Mr David 
Roberts — ^representing the Tomb of the Scaligers in Verona. 

1 36 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

With these panages before me, I started on 1117 study of the 
j^xj from a fresh point. Bomeo and Joli^ were no common 
lorenL In their persons they must be pnre, beantifal, gen- 
erous, devoted, and in every way meet, like the spotless 
IjAiigenia, to be ofiTered up a worthy sacrifice to the gods as 
an expiation for the past, a healing and propitiation for the 
future; and in such wise that the remembrance of their 
death should make impossible any after-enmity— each party 
alike sharing in the wofol penalty. 

Capuld, O brother MonUgne, give me thy band: 
This is my daughter's jointure, for no more 
Can I demand. 

if ofUaj^Md. But I can give thee more : 
For I will raise her statue in pure gold ; 
That, while Verona by that name \a known, 
There shall no figure at such rate be set. 
As that of true and faithful Juliet 

Cbp. As rich shall Romeo's by his lady's lie ; 
Poor sacrifices of our enmity ! " 

Very terrible has been the awakening of these two passion- 
ate old men to the miserable folly of their feud ! At our first 
sight of them, they rush angrily into the m(Ue of their retain- 
ers which opens the play, — no reason asked how it has arisen 
— Capulet shouting, " Give me my long sword, ho ! " and Mon- 
tague, held back by his wife, hurling defiance in the words, 
" Thou villain Capulet ! " At our last sight of them, we leave 
them standing remorsefully hand in hand by the dead bodies 
of their only children, each reading in the other's face the 
rueful lineaments of his own cureless grief. 

It is only when the din of the street brawl has died down 
under the stem rebuke and threats of the Prince of Verona 

Juliet. 137 

that we hear of Borneo. '' Bight glad I am/' says Lady Mon- 
tague, "he was not at this fray." Then, in answer to her 
inquiry as to where he is, she is told by his friend and cousin^ 
Benvolio, that he was seen an hour before dawn walking in 
one of his favourite haunts " underneath the grove of syca- 
more." This intelligence draws from his father the remark, 


« Many a morning hath he there been seen, 
With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew." 

Shakespeare, we see, has taken the greatest pains to show 
the kind of love-sickness into which Bomeo has been thrown 
by the charms of the fair but icy Bosaline, who chose to be 
" forsworn to love " — that vague yearning of the fancgr, that 
idle listlessness which finds vent in "sighing like furnace," 
and writing sonnets to his " mistress' eyebrow," and which is 
as unlike the love that is soon to absorb his whole soul " as 
moonlight is to sunlight, or as water is to wine." Much of 
it is but " according to the fashion of the time." Not only 
Bomeo's habits, his very language undergoes a change from 
the moment he sees Juliet. It is no longer the fancy but 
the heart that speaks. 

Shakespeare prepares us early for the coming tragedy in 
the foreboding reluctance with which Bomeo allows himself 
to be persuaded by his friends to go to the " old accustomed 
feast " that night at Capulet's house. Destiny has begun her 
work. Some power constrains him against his wilL He has 
no thought of enjoyment before him, for he says — 

" Qive me a torch : I am not for this ambling ; 
Being but heavy, I will bear the light 
Mercutio, Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you danoe. 

1 38 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Romso. Not I, believe me : you have dancing shoes 
With nimble soles ; I have a sole of lead, 
So stakes me to the ground, I cannot move. 

• ■•••■• 

I'll be a candle-holder, and look on.*' 

Even although he has heard that the fair Eosaline is to be 
among the guests, he is unable to throw off a heavy misgiving 
of calamity ** hanging in the stars," which is to date from 
"this night's revels," and to close in "some vile forfeit of 
untimely death." "But," he adds, 

'' He, that hath the steerage of my course. 
Direct my sail ! ** 

-^words which always remind me of those to the same effect 
spoken by the Lady in "Comus," when forebodings and 
anxieties perplex her — 

« Eye me, blest Providence, and square my trial 
To my proportioned strength ! " 

In every way happier than JuUet, Romeo is fortunate in 
both his parents. They are from the first loving, considerate, 
and sympathetic ; and, had they known his wishes, they would 
have spared no pains to gratify them. Not so with Juliet. 
Although an only child, there has been obviously not much 
tenderness lavished on her. " Earth," says Lord Capulet, 

" Hath swallowed all my hopes but she ; 
She is the hopeful lady of my earth." 

This would lead one to believe that she was the cherished joy 
of his life. And when Paris presses his suit, he says — 

" Get her heart, 
My will to her consent is but a part" 

Juliet. 139 

Yet this profession does not stand the proof ; for when, later, 
his child entreats with all the earnestness of despair but to be 
heard, he is deaf as an adder to her appeal, his own will ad- 
mitting of no question. Apart from this unreasonable despo- 
tism in his family, old Capulet is in every sense a gentleman. 
Observe, for instance, the manner in which he reprimands 
Tybalt when he would insult Bomeo at the ball — 

" Tottng Romeo ifl't ? Verona brags of him, 
To be a yirtuons and weli-govem'd youth ; 
I would not for the wealth of all this town 
Here in my house do him diBparagement : 
Therefore be patient, take no note of him : 
It is my will. . . . 

T^ihaJiL I'll not endure him. 

Cbp. He shall be endured 

What, goodman boy! — I say, he shall ; — (Jo to; — 
You'll not endure him ? . . . 
Toull make a mutiny among my guests ! " 

Choleric and unreasonable as he is, yet I like him better 

than his wife, who appears to me to be a piece of cold, formal 

propriety; of the type that would " with a hoard of shallow 

mayjms preach down a daughter's heart" One can see that 

there is no sympathy between Lady Capulet and her daug^iter, 

although Juliet, her '' loving child," as she caUs her when she 

has lost her, would not question that she owed her mother all 

obedience, and woidd, when she first comes before us, never 

hesitate in showing it. With what bluntness this hard 

mother brings the sacred subject of marriage before the mind 

of her undeveloped, yet, as she ought to know, imaginative 

daughter ! — 

" Tell me, daughter Juliet, 
How stands your disposition to be married 1 * 

1 40 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Juliet's simple faltering reply should have taught her how far 
from her thoughts was such a subject — '* It is an honour that 
I dream not of." 

She stands a silent, almost indifferent listener to all her 
mother has to say concerning the virtues, beauties, and 
accomplishments of Paris, her panegyric echoed in the gar- 
rulous piling up of admiring epithets by the Nurse — 

" Why, he's a man of wax. 
Nay, he's a flower ; in faith, a very flower." 

Impatient at getting no response from Juliet after this out- 
burst, Lady Capulet says — 

" Speak briefly, can you like of Paris' love ? ** 

JuUet, startled and unprepared, takes up the word given to 
her, and says— 

^ I'll look to like, if looking liking move : " 

but adds in all-ignorant obedience — 

*' But no more deep will I endart mine eye 
Than your consent gives strength to make it fly^" 

Poor Juliet! With a father who loves her in a wilful, 
passionate way, with the understanding that when he has set 
his mind upon a thing her will shall always bend to his ; with 
a mother who, if she loves her daughter, entirely fails to 
understand her nature, or to feel for her in a matter where 
even hard mothers are tender ; and having for her only other 
friend, her foster-mother, — a coarse-minded, weakly indulgent, 
silly woman, — over whom, since her infancy, she has ruled 
supreme, coaxing and tyrannising by turns, — not one of them 
having, as we are brought to see, an idea of marriage beyond 

Juliet 141 

the good worldly match thought necessary for the rich heiress 
of the Gapulets ! Amid such surroundings has bloomed into 
early girlhood this creature, with a rich imagination full of 
romance, and with a boundless capacity for self-devotion. 
Her dreams are of a future, with a love in store for her re- 
sponsive to her own capacity of loving, and they are inspired 
by an ideal hero possessing the best attributes of manhood, — 
a love in which her whole being should be merged, and by 
which her every faculty and feeling should be quickened into 
noblest life. 

These dreams were even now to be realised in the person 
of him who was unwillingly making his slow way among the 
maskers to her father's festival, carrying his " heavy burden " 
of love along with him. He has not found it the "tender 
thing " which Mercutio calls it. No — 

" It is too rough, 
Too rude, too boisterous ; and it pricks like thorn." 

Following his friends into the ball-room he looks carelessly 
around, and lo ! what do his eyes light upon ? A vision of a 
beauty never imagined before ! 

No haughty coldness here, no measured stately movement 
He watches entranced this lovely vision swaying to the rhyth- 
mic movement of the music, with unstudied grace, so noble, 
yet so childlike ; looking for nothing, unconscious of admiring 
eyes, herself delighting only in the simple enjoyment of the 
dance, with a bright and happy smile of amused delight at the 
novelty of the scene beaming in her lovely and innocent face. 

What is this creature, this "snowy dove trooping with 
crows " ? 

142 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

" What ladjr's that, which doth enrich the hand 
Of yonder knight?" 

he asks some strange servant; who replies — 

" I know not, sir. 
Eom, 0, she doth teach the torches to bum bright ! 
Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night 
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear : 

Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear ! 

• ••■••• 

Did my heart love till now ? forswear it, sight ! 
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." 

All the wonder of this gracious creature's charm flashes swift 
as lightning upon him, and reveals to his awakened senses a 
something before which all former dreams and yearnings 
vanish and become as though they had never beeiu He 
feels instinctively that there is within this peerless form a 
soul as peerless, towards which his own rushes as towards 
its other self. The languid fantastic youth of dreams and 
whims becomes at once the man of purpose. He puts on 
his armour and begins the battle of life. No hesitation now, 
such as we had seen in him before, — ^no more, "my mind 
misgives me ! " 

Meanwhile, we may be sure that ** yonder knight," who is 
no other than the County Paris, has been doing his best 
during the dance to excite Juliet's admiration. She has 
come straight from the recapitulation of his perfections, and 
knows well from her mother's words that, " like " him or not, 
this comely gentleman, '' the valiant Paris," is destined by her 
parents to be her husband. She has therefore '* looked to like," 
88 she was told to do, but evidently with no success on her part, 
whatever increase of ardour the meeting may have brought 
to Paris. Her heart and fancy are alike untouched, when, 

Juliet. 143 

at the close of the dance, a stranger, in the dress of a pilgrim, 

*' with his cockle, hat, and staff," approaches to watch, as he 


" Her place of stand, 

And, touching hers, make happy my rade hand.'' 

During the dispute between Capulet and Tybalt, Borneo 
has made his way to Juliet. It is only the dose of their con- 
versation that we hear, when he asks, as the pilgrim, that his 
" unworthy hand " may be permitted to touch " this holy shrine," 
earnestly pleading that he may be allowed to atone for the 
roughness of his touch by the softer pressure of his lips upon 
her flower-soft hand. The touch is gentle, the words are few ; 
but that touch of " palm to palm," those few words, have an 
eloquence more persuasive than volumes of passionate phrases. 
The tender beseeching eyes, the tremulous voice full of ado- 
ration and humility — ^have these not spoken? The heart's 
deepest meanings rarely find utterance in words. 

The " dear saint " replies to the holy pilgrim's devotion in 
a playful manner, telling him that his lips, as a pilgrim, he 
"must use in prayer." Far too soon breaks in the Nurse, 
who no doubt likes not this talk with a stranger, and tells 
Juliet that her mother craves a word with her. Bomeo takes 
this opportunity to ask, " What is her mother ? " Upon which 
the Nurse replies that she is the " lady of the house, and a 
good lady," and that she herself had nursed her daughter, 
whom he had '' talk'd withal," adding, in the true gossiping 
manner of her class : — 

'* I tell you, — he, that can lay hold of her, 
Shall have the chinks. 

Eofm, . Is she a Capulet % 

dear account ! my life is my foe's debt" 



1 44 Shakespeare's Female CJiaracters : 

Benvolio hurries his friend away before, as he thinks, the 
fact of their presence has been discovered — ^and also wisely, 
while yet "the sport is at the best." Lord Capulet most 
courteously urges them to remain to supper, although he has 
been told who they are; and finding they decline, he bids 
them good night, thanking them graciously for their company : — 

" Why, then, I thank you all ; 
I thank you, honest gentlemen ; good night" 

Juliet naturally wishes to know Romeo's name, as he had de- 
sired to know hers. As the Montagues leave the room, each 
by turns saluting her, she asks and learns from the Nurse the 
names of Eomeo's friends. He lingers last ; and to her eager, 
" What's he, that follows there," she adds, to recall him more 
particularly to the Nurse's attention, what must have appeared 
very singular to herself, he " that would not dance ? " But 
the Nurse has to inquire, and finds — 

" His name is Romeo, and a Montague ; 
The only son of your great enemy. 

JmJImL My only love sprung from my only hate ! 
Too early seen unknown, and known too late ! 
Prodigious birth of love it is to me. 
That I must love a loathM enemy." 

The tragic note is struck. There is no questioning of her 
feeling — no doubt, no hesitation. Like lightning love has 
shot into her heart and left its barb, — whether for joy or woe, 
time alone will show. This is, possibly, their last as well 
as their first meeting. Such is Juliet's thought as the act 
doses. For what ensues Shakespeare prepares the audience 
in the words of the prologue to the secoud act 

Juliet. 145 

** Being held a foe, he may not have access 

To breathe such vows as lovers use to swear ; 

• •••••• 

But passion lends them power, time means, to meet, 
Tempering extremities with extreme sweet'' 

Romeo, taken reluctantly from the feast by his friends, 
who will not sup with their enemy, steals away from them 
immediately. Although the " snowy dove " is his fair enemy, 
his '' imrest " causes him to hover near the place where he has 
found his true life. The foreboding of trouble may hang over 
him, but this is forgotten in the presence of Juliet. The 
whole man is changed. "With love's light wings" he over- 
leaps the wall of Capulet's garden. No talk now of " sinking 
under Love's heavy burden." Indeed, no talk at alL No 
more confidences to his f rienda This real passion makes him 
dumbly happy — ^is too sacred to be named and talked over. 

Neither of the lovers can have any insight into the feeling 
of the other, when the same impulse, or destiny, which leads 
Bomeo to find his way beneath his lady's chamber- window, 
despite all obstruction — '' the orchard walls are high, and hard 
to climb " — surges Juliet to seek the freshness of the night air 
in the balcony or loggia leading from her room, to think over 
and indulge these new sensations of mingled happiness and 
pain, which had so wildly and entirely taken possession of 
her. The tumult of her feelings must find vent. What a 
new life has opened to her! The past seems swept away; 
her spirit has risen at a bound as at some undreamt-of calL 
It has not been left to her will to determine how " deep she 
will endart her eye." The invincible and unknown Er6s has 
come upon her unlocked for, unannounced, in all his terror 
and in all his beauty. But he to whom she is prepared to 


146 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

''give up all herself" is separated from her by a bitter and 
impassable family feud of which she has been hearing all her 
life. Her throbbing pulse, the flush of the heated ball-room, 
make the cool moonlight air most welcome. She could not 
breathe within. Here she is alone, safe even from the silly 
prattle of the Nurse, whom she has left dozing in her chair. 
She will tell her secret to the soft night breeze, — whisper to 
it over and over the name which is so dear and yet so fatal, — 
abjure young Montague in fanc^ to renounce it, 

'< And for that name, which \& no part of thee, 
Take all myself.*' 

Oh, how sweeter far than sweetest note of any nightingale 
must have been that soft, tremulous, half-inarticulate voice as 
it floated in the still air towards Bomeo's ear ! What ecstasy 
to learn, and ihuA to learn, that she, who ''has wounded him 
80 deeply, is by him wounded"! At first too amazed, too 
doubtful of his joy, he is fearful to interrupt her spoken 
reverie, but upon the offer of herself his self-restraint can 
hold out no longer, and he breaks in vehemently with — 

" I take thee at thy word : 
Call me but love, and FU be new baptLsed ; 
Henceforth I never will be Romeo." 

Too terrified at first at finding she has had a listener, Juliet 
recognises neither voice nor words, and exclaims angrily — 

" What man art thou, that, thus bescreen'd in night, 
So stnmblest on my coonsel t " 

In his reply he shrinks from repeating the name which is 
hateful to himself, "because it is an enemy to thee." With a 
thrill of rapture Juliet whispers to herself — 

Juliet. 147 

" M7 ears have not yet drank a hnndied words 
Of that tongue's utterance, yet I know the sound." 

Yet she must be assured from his own lips how he came 
hither and wherefore. Thus, when she tells him of the peril 
of the place, — no less than death, '' if any of my kinsmen find 
thee here," — he answers — 

" Alack ! there lies more peril in thine eye, 
Than twenty of their swords ; look thou but sweet. 
And I am proof against their enmity." 

Delicious to her heart as this rejoinder is, it cannot still her 
anxiety for his safety. 

" I would not for the world they saw thee here. 

i2om. And but thou love me, let them find me here: 
My life were better ended by their hate. 
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love." 

Then she is full of amazement as to how he came there. 
Who could have guided him ? 

*' By whose direction found'st thou out this place ? 
Riym. By love." 

All — love. Love is on his lips as in his heart. 

** I am no pilot ; yet, wert thou as far 
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea 
I would adventure for such merchandise." 

Juliet, when partly pacified as to his safety — " I have night's 
cloak to hide me from their sight " — ^has time to think of how 
she has committed herself, in how unmaidenly a guise she 
must appear before him. 

Women are deeply in debt to Shakespeare for all the lovely 
noble things he has put into his women's hearts and mouths. 

148 Shakespeare s Female Cfiaracters : 

but surely for nothing more than for the words in which 
Juliet's reply is couched. Only one who knew of what a true 
woman is capable, in frankness, in courage, and self -surrender 
when her heart is possessed by a noble love, could have 
touched with such delicacy, such infinite charm of mingled 
reserve and artless frankness, the avowal of so fervent yet so 
modest a love, the secret of which had been so strangely 
stolen from her. As the whole scene is the noblest psean to 
Love ever written, so is what Juliet now says supreme in 
subtlety of feeling and expression, where all is beautiful 
Watch all the fluctuations of emotion which pervade it, and 
you will understand what a task is laid upon the actress to 
interpret them, not in voice and tone only, important as these 
are, but also in manner and in action. The generous frank- 
ness of the giving, the timid drawing back, fearful of having 
given too much unsought; the perplexity of the whole, all 
summed up in that sweet entreaty for pardon with which it 
doses. But I must quote the whole passage : — 

" Thou knoVst the mask of night is on my fieu^ 
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek 
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night. 
Fain would I dwell on form ; fain, fain deny 
What I have spoke ; but farewell compliment ! 
Dost thou loye me ? I know thou wilt say * Ay,' 
And I will take thy word : yet, if thou swear'st, 
Thou may'st prove false ; at lovers' perjuries, 
They say, Jove laughs. gentle Romeo, 
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully : 
Or if thou think'st I am too quickly won, 
111 frown and be perverse, and say thee nay. 
So thou wilt woo ; but else, not for the world. 
In truth, fiair Montague, I am too fond ; 
And therefore thou may'st think my Tiaviour light : 

Juliet 149 

But tniBt me, gentleman, I'll prove more true 
Than those that have more cunning to be strange. 
I should have been more strange, I must confess, 
But that thou oyerheard'st, ere I was ware, 
My true love's passion : therefore, pardon me. 
And not impute this yielding to light love, 
Which the dark night hath so discovered." 

I considered this speech one of the most difficult in the play, 
and loved and dreaded it equally, always fearing to do too 
much or too little in it. But, indeed, the whole scene is a 
very anxious and a very fatiguing one. 

How much must Borneo have felt the contrast between the 
gentle, ardent, yet deprecating tones he listens to so rap- 
turously, and the unsympathetic voice in which the haughty 
Bosaline had told him she thought it virtue to give nought 
in return for love ! What was her cold beauty to that which 
he was now watching in the waning moonlight ! And here, 
too, there was so much besides the beautiful outside; the 
frank innocence, the boundless generosity which told of the 
noble sweetness of the inner nature ! He is spell-bound into 
silence, and cannot break the music of those words that flood 
his heart with happiness, until Juliet, by asking him not to 
think lightly of her love so frankly expressed, binds him to 
her by a tie never to be sundered. That passionate childlike 
loving queens her in his sight, and makes him her slave for 
ever. To his eyes, "being o'er his head," she appears as 
" a vdnged messenger of heaven." He would make the pure 
chaste moon, as being most like to her, the goddess to bear 
witness to his vows — "Lady, by yonder blessed moon I 
swear." But Juliet interrupts, and will not let him 
swear by 

1 50 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

" The inconstant moon, 
That monthly changes in her circled orb, 
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.^ 

He asks — " What shall I swear by ? " She answers — 

« Do not swear at all ; 
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self, 
Which is the god of my idolatry, 
And 111 believe thee." 

Oh the rich resonance of those words ! What scope they 
give the actress, by her delivery of them, to mark the enthu- 
siasm and the devotion of Juliet's nature, which is so soon to 
develop into the heroic constancy which carries her, alone and 
unsupported, through a trial more fearful than death itself ! 

Suddenly she thinks that such joy as this cannot be lasting, 
— ^that this contract between them is 

" Too rash, too unadvised, too sudden ; 
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be. 
Ere one can say * It lightens.' " 

But such a reflection is only momentary, for she directly 

adds — 

'^ Sweet, good night ! 

This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, 

May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet ; ^ 

and to prove that no disturbing thoughts have real place 
within her, says, as she turns to leave him — 

« As sweet repose and rest 
Come to thy heart, as that within my breast ! " 

Naturally anxious to delay the parting, Bomeo detains Juliet 
by the entreaty — 

yuliet. 151 

'^ 0, wilt ihou leave me so unsatifified ? 

JmL What satis&ction canst thou have to-night ? 

Rem. The exchange of thy love's faithful vow for mine." 

How lovely is what follows \ — 

" I gave thee mine before thou didst request it : 
And yet I would it were to give again." 

Borneo tremblingly asks — 

" Would'st thou withdraw it ? for what purpose, love ? 
Jul, But to be frank, and give it thee again. . . . 
My bounty is as boundless as the sea, 
My love as deep ; the more I give to thee, 
The more I have, for both are infinite.'' 

At this moment the Nurse, awakening, misses Juliet and 

calls to her ; on which, fearing the house may be disturbed 

and her love in danger, she bids Bomeo a hasty adieu, with 

an eager admonition to '' be true." Then, as it may be only 

the Nurse that has awoke, she adds, — ^"Stay but a little, 

I will come again." When left alone, Bomeo cannot believe 

his happiness : — 

" I am afeard, 

Being in night, all this is but a dream, 

Too flattering-sweet to be substantial." 

So marked a change takes place in Juliet's manner and 
words on her return, that we are led to suppose the Nurse 
may have questioned her on what she thought of Paris and 
of her approaching marriage with him. From such talk she 
breaks hastily away, and knowing how little likelihood there 
was of another meeting with her lover without peril to his life 
— dreading also that her parents may force her into a marriage 
with Paris, and having now no time to explain anything, she 
19 obliged to say to Bomeo abruptly, in " three words " — 

152 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

<* If that thy bent of love be honourable, 
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow, 
By one that I'll procure to come to thee, 
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite ; 
And all my fortunes at thy foot 111 lay. 
And follow thee, my lord, throughout the world.** 

Here the Nurse again calls — 

"Madam ! 

JvX, I come, anon. — But if thou mean'st not well, 
I do beseech thee, — ^ 

Another interruption comes from the Nurse, to which Juliet, 
almost past patience, cries — 

" By and by, I come : — 
To cease thy suit, and leave me to my grief." 

Eomeo has only time to say, " So thrive my soul, — '' when 
Juliet leaves him with ''A thousand times good night!" 
The Nurse must have been quieted by what Juliet has 
imparted to her; for when, after Bomeo's reluctant steps 
have taken him to some little distance, Juliet comes back 
again to the balcony, there is no further interruption from 
her. Thinking Eomeo gone, Juliet wishes 

" Oh, for a falconef s voice, 
To lure this tassel-gentle back again ! " 

The "silver -sweet" voice reaches his attending ear "like 
softest music," and brings him instantly back. 

Why has she stolen forth again? Partly to. learn the 
hour when she is to send to him — ^partly for the fond pleasure 
of Ustening to some few more words of that " tongue's utter- 
ance." Presently she says, "I have forgot why I did call 
thee back." Had she anything to forget? I think not. 

Juliet. 153 

Only bewildered with her happiness — that "sweet repose 
and rest" which she found within her heart — she thought 
she had, and owns that she zh/dl 

« Forget, to have thee still stand there, 
Bemembeiing how I love thy company." 

Borneo will gladly stay — ^"Forgetting any other home but 
this;" but the "night's cloak" can no longer conceal him. 
" Tis almost morning." They must separate. Juliet leaves 
him with — 

" Good night, good night 1 Parting is such sweet sorrow, 
That I shall say — good night, till it be morrow. 

Bank, Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast ! — 
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest ! ** 

Borneo wants no sleep. His satisfied heart needs no 
refreshment. While yet 

" The grey-eyed mom smiles on the frowning night. 
Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light," 

he seeks the cell of Friar Laurence, who would appear to be 
the Confessor of both families. Upon his "Good-morrow, 
father I " the Friar asks, " What early tongue so sweet saluteth 
me?" Bomeo amazes the holy man by his confession that 
he has forgot the name of Bosaline, and explains how his 

" Heart's dear love is set 

On the fair daughter of rich Capolet 


When, and where, and how 
We met, we woo'd, and made exchange of vow, 
I'll tell thee as we pass ; but this I pray, 
That thou consent to marry us to-day. 
Ffiax. Holy Saint Francis ! what a change is here ! " 

1 54 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Borneo is made to listen to a homily for this fickleness ; but 
the Friar ends with consenting to his request, under the 
impression that the marriage may possibly bring to a con- 
clusion the long feud between their families. 

" For this alliance may bo happy prove, 
To torn your households' rancour to pure love." 

Juliet, meanwhile, has had to take the Nurse fully into 
her confidence. The notion of a marriage, and a secret one, 
in which she herself has to play an important part, delights 
the heart of this conceited, silly woman. She gladly under- 
takes to be Juliet's messenger, and finds Bomeo at the ap- 
pointed hour with his friends Mercutio and Benvolio. Before 
her entrance, we see how entirely Bomeo has cast aside the 
languor of the love-sick youth of the day before. When 
rallied by the brilliant Mercutio on his giving them "the 
slip " the previous night, he turns the tables on him — gives 
him jest for jest, so that this glib-tongued gentleman, '' who 
loves to hear himself talk," has to call in Benvolio to help 
him — "Come between us, good Benvolio; my wits faint." 
Upon still getting the worst from Bomeo, he says, "Why, 
is not this better now than groaning for love? Now art 
thou sociable ; now art thou Bomeo ; now art thou what 
thou art> by art as well as by nature." Mercutio, after 
wasting some of his wit on the Nurse, quits the scene with 
Benvolio. The Nurse, exceedingly angered and indignant 
at Mercutio, can hardly be brought to give to Bomeo, who 
does all he can to soothe her, the message from her mistress — 
" what she bade me say, I will keep to myself ; " but Bomeo's 
fair words and a handsome cUmceur, which she takes after a 

Juliet. 155 

little coquetting, bring her round, and an appointment is 

made for her lady to come that afternoon to Friar Laurence's 

cell, there to be '' shrived and married." Bomeo also directs 

her to meet his man behind the abbey wall, and to get from 

him " cords made like a tackled stair," by which he may after 

dark ascend to the chamber of his bride. Before she consents 

to this, she is shrewd enough to require satisfaction on a very 

material point : — 

« Is your man secret ? Did you ne*er hear say, 
Two may keep counsel, putting one away ? " 

We may believe that the Nurse, loving much her own ease, 
has not, on this hot day, made her best haste back to Juliet. 
We hear she has been "three long hours" away — a period 
for which her short interview with Bomeo could hardly 
account. We do not wonder, therefore, at Juliet's im- 
patience. When at last the Nurse comes, Juliet can get 
but little from her. The Nurse feels that she is mistress 
of the situation, and will make the most of it. She is 
" a- weary ; " her " bones ache ; " she must have " leave a- 
while;" she will not speak to the point — "Do you not see 
that I am out of breath?" 

*' JmL How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath 
To say to me that thou art out of breath ? 

Is thy news good or bad % answer to that ; 
Say either, and 111 stay the circumstance." 

The Nurse remembering, no doubt, Bomeo's handsome gift, 
now bursts into an eulogium upon him. He is in all points 
"past compare." Then the fear of having lost her dinner 
startles her — " What ! have you dined at home ? " " No, no." 

1 56 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Althongh at another time Juliet could never weary of 
hearing the praises of her lover, yet now a much more urgent 
matter is in hand. 

** But all this did 1 know before ; 
What says he of oar marriage ] what of that ? " 

The heartless nature of the Nurse is here shown by the 
cruelty with which she keeps Juliet in suspense, and we 
cannot much wonder at the light in which she appears after- 
wards. It is for ever herself, herself — " Lord, how my head 
aches ! " then her back, — reproaching Juliet for the time she 
has herself wasted " with jaunting up and down." 

When JuKet has pitied and petted her enough, she thinks 
she has brought her to the point ; but just as she is touching 
it, the Nurse breaks oflf again with, " Where is your mother ? " 
At this, Juliet's patience gives way, and she replies angrily : — 

" Why, she is within ; 
Where should she be f How oddly thou repliest ! '' 

thereby only giving the Nurse fresh weapons to torment her. 
Juliet sees that she must still be humoured ; and here occurs 
one of those passages which, with unerring instinct, Shake- 
speare leaves the performer to fill up by action — words being 
quite inadequate to cany on the scene. The caressing, winning 
kisses and loving ways of Juliet gradually subdue her tor- 
mentor. By this time, too, perhaps the thought of dinner 
becomes uppermost in the Nurse's mind; and in reply to 
Juliet's question, "Come, what says Eomeo?" she replies, 
coming straight to the point at last: — 

" Have you got leave to go to shrift to-day ? 
JvX, I have. 

Juliet. 157 

Nwu, Then hie you hence to Friar Laurence* cell ;— 
There stays a hushand to make you a wife. 
• ••••• 

Hie you to church ; 

Go ; I'll to dinner ; hie you to the cell.** 

"Hie to high fortune! — honest Nurse, farewell!" exclaims 
Juliet, as with happy throbbing heart she hastens away to 
celebrate the rite which gives her to her lover, and after 
which she will be free " to follow him throughout the world," 

No need to dwell on the short scene which follows, when 
the lovers meet at Friar Laurence's cell, where the poet 
shows what countless wealth of love each is ready to bestow 
upon the other. No forebodings now from either. The 
" bud of love " seems swiftly to have grown into a " beauteous 
flower " unhindered. The swifter blighting to follow is hidden 
for that blessed moment from them. The Friar, fearing these 
supposed enemies should be seen together at his cell, hurries 
them away into his chapel to perform the marriage rite; 
and "holy church incorporates two in one." After the 
Friar's benediction they paxt ; but only until the moon shall 
again be "touching with silver all the fruit-tree tops," and 
the nightingale shall again be "trilling her thick -warbled 
note" from the pomegranate-tree in a low sweet epithalamium. 
Why should their bliss be dashed by fear ? They have both 
entire faith in the Friar, in his power to help them, and in 
good time to reconcile their friends to the marriage. He 
must look forward to this himself, or he would not otherwise 
have consented to it. Their parting, therefore, is as full of 
joy as their meeting had been, though of a more subdued 
and holier kind. 

Alas for their next meeting ! All seems fair ; but Destiny 

1 58 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

now begins her woful work in earnest, and chooses her first 
victim in the person of the gallant, gay, high-spirited Mercutio, 
who is strolling along in the hot noonday, despite the remon- 
strances of his friend Benvolio. 

" The day is hot, the Capulets abroad, 
And, if we meet, we shall not 'scape a brawl ; 
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring." 

Presently comes Tybalt seeking Eomeo, in order to insult and 
challenge him for having intruded the previous night into his 
uncle's house. Mercutio tries to provoke him to an encounter, 
but Tybalt will have none of him. At that moment Mercutio 
is not the man he seeks. For such a hot-blooded young 
gentleman he shows wondrous forbearance under Mercutio's 
taunts, and ends with, "Well, peace be with you, sir! here 
comes my man," as he catches sight of Bomeo, who is coming 
straight from the Friar's cell after the celebration of his 
marriage. In this mood the world to him is full of love 
and amity, even the insulting address of Tybalt cannot move 
him. Besides, is Tybalt not the kinsman of his love ? To a 
coarse greeting he replies with dignity and kindness : — 

"Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee 
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage 
To such a greeting : villain am I none ; 
Therefore, farewell ; I see thon know'st me not" 

Bomeo's gentleness, even under renewed provocation, takes 
away the sting of Tybalt's wrath. He cannot as a gentleman 
add still further insult, but must perforce, for the time, be 
satisfied. Mercutio, however, who knows none of Bomeo's 
reasons for desiring to be at peace with the Capulets, calls this 

Juliet. 159 

a ''dishonourable, vile submission/' and feels that he must, 
on his own part, wipe out the discredit with his sword. He 
turns furiously on Tybalt, and in a second their swords are 
tilting at each other's breasts. Galling on his friend to help 
him, and reminding the combatants that " the prince expressly 
hath forbidden bandying in Verona streets," Bomeo interposes 
and beats up their weapons. This gives Tybalt an opportunity 
to inflict a wound on Mercutio under Bomeo's arm, — after 
which he leaves the scene with his followers. Mercutio 
knows at once that he has received his death-stroke — 

" I am hurt ; — 
A plague o* both your houses ! — I am sped : — 
Is he gone, and hath nothing 1 ^ 

With all his pain he never loses his wit and spirit. Romeo 
says: — 

** Courage, man ; the hurt cannot be much. 

Met. No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door ; but 
'tis enough, 'twill serve. Ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me 
a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. 

Help me into some house, Benvolio, 

Or I shall faint. A plague o' both your houses ! 

They have made worms' meat of me." 

All the dismal consequences of this disaster, of which he is 
the innocent cause, at once flash upon Bomeo. 

'* This gentleman, the prince's near ally, 
My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt 
In my behalf ; my reputation stain'd 
By Tybalf s slander— Tybalt, that an hour 
Hath been my kinsman ! sweet Juliet, 
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate, 
And in my temper soften'd valour's steel ! " 

1 6o Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Unluckily, while Borneo's grief is at its height, on hearing 
from Benvolio that Mercutio is dead, Tybalt comes back 
upon the scene. At the sight of the slayer of his friend, 
even Juliet is forgotten ; and rushing with fury upon Tybalt, 
who has again insulted him with taunting words, Borneo kills 
him, and is hurried from the scene by Benvolio as the citizens 
rush in, presently to be followed by the Prince of Verona with 
the heads of both the rival houses. 

The Prince, who has so lately issued his decree that, if 
either of the conflicting factions should again disturb the 
quiet of the streets, " their life shall pay the forfeit," upon 
hearing from Benvolio the provocation under which Bomeo 
fought, is moved to pronounce a milder sentence — 

" Let Romeo hence in haste, 

Else, when he's found, that hoar is his last. 

• ••••• 

Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill/' 

While all these disasters are taking place, Juliet, entirely 
unconscious of the diflference in her fate, is revelling in joyful 
anticipation of the approach of night, which shall bring back 
Bomeo: — 

" Come, night !— Come, Romeo ! come, thou night in day ! 
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night 
Whiter than new snow on a raven's back. 
Come, gentle night ; come, loving, black-brow'd night, 
Qive me my Romeo : and, when he shall die, 
Take him and cut him out in little stars, 
And he will make the face of heaven so fine, 
That all the world will be in love with night, 
And pay no worship to the garish sun. 

So tedious is this day, 
As is the night before some festival 

Juliet. i6i 

To an impatient child, that hath new robes, 
And may not wear them. 0, here comes my nurse, 
And she brings news ; and every tongue, that speaks 
But Romeo's name, speaks heavenly eloquence. — 
Now, nurse, what news ? *' 

" Ah me ! what news ? " The cruel, tiresome Nurse will only 
wring her hands and say — 

'* Ah well-a-day ! he's dead, he's dead, he's dead ! 
We are undone, lady, we are undone ! 
Alack the day ! — ^he's gone, he's kill'd, he's dead ! ** 

Juliet, naturally believing that Romeo has fallen by her 
kinsman's hand, — thinking too of the "little stars" which, 
she has just said, will at his death " make the face of heaven 
so fine," cries out — 

" Can heaven be so envious 1 

Nu/ne, Romeo can. 

Though heaven cannot. Romeo, Romeo ! — 
Who ever would have thought it ? — Romeo ? " 

Maddened by these exclamations, which contain no explanation, 
Juliet cries — 

" What devil art thou, that dost torment me thus ? ^ 
This torture should be roar'd in dismal hell. 
Hath Romeo slain himself?" 

^ These words bring back to me an evening in Mr Macready's drawing-room. 
The party was a mixed one of grown-up people and children. We had gone 
through many games and dances, when the game of " Proverbs " was thought 
of. " The devil is never so black as he is painted" was selected. The questioner, 
Mr Maclise, the painter, challenged me, and I had to bring in the second word 
in my answer. Imagine my confusion, which, alas ! every one seemed to enjoy. 
I was on the point of giving up, as I could think of no suitable reply to bring in 
the word. But when the general merriment and my nervousness were at their 
height, some one behind my chair whispered, ** What did you say to the nurse 
last night, when she was keeping you in that cruel suspense ? In an instant 
I sprang up and said, " What devil art thou, that dost torment me thus V* I 

1 62 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Not even the anguish Juliet shows at the bare thought moves 
this cruel creature, who goes maundering on — 

" I saw the wound, I saw it vrith mine eyes, — 
Gk)d save the mark ! — ^here on his manly breast ! 
A piteous corse, a bloody piteous corse ; 
Pale, pale as ashes/' 

Then Juliet asks no more questions — 

" break, my heart ! — poor bankrupt^ break at once ! 

. . . . End motion here : 
And thou, and Romeo, press one heavy bier ! " 

When the Nurse continues — 

"0 Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had ! 

• ••••• 

That ever I should live to see thee dead ! " 
— Juliet, seeing only more perplexity, more grief, exclaims — 

'^ Is Romeo slaughter'd ? and is Tybalt dead ? 
My dear-loved cousin, and my dearer lord ? " 

At last comes the dismal truth — 

^ Tybalt is gone, and Romeo banished ; 
Romeo that kill'd him, he is banished." 

In horror Juliet asks — 

<< Did Romeo's hand shed Tybalt's blood ? 
Nwit, It did, it did ; alas the day, it did ! ** 

Buppoee quotations were aUowed, for I was applauded, and a great deal of 
merriment foUowed. I looked round for my friendly helper, and saw Mr 
Charles Dickens stealing away unsuspected by any one, and looking as though 
he had casuaUy left his seat for no purpose whatever. When I thanked him 
afterwards for his help, he turned it off, saying '* The words must have come 
into my own head, — how should he have thought of them ? " This was the 
way he did his kindnesses — never so happy as when doing them. 

Juliet. 163 

This bare fact, without the circumstances attending it, shocks 
Juliet ; she exclaims — 

" O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face ! 
.... 0, that deceit should dwell 
In anch a gorgeous palace ! ** 

Then follows the Nurse's vulgar diatribe against the male sex — 

" There's no trust, 
No faith, no honesty in men ; all perjured, 
All forsworn, all naughty all dissemblers. 

Shame come to Romeo ! " 

This word applied to Bomeo arouses a fiery indignation in 
Juliet, who turns upon her instantly with — 

" Blister'd he thy tongue 
For such a wish ! he was not bom to shame ; 
Upon his brow shame is ashamed to sit ; 
For 'tis a throne where honour may be crown'd 
Sole monarch of the universal earth." 

Amazed at such a rebuke from one whom she has till now 
been treating as a child, the Nurse can but feebly ask — 

" Will you speak well of him that kill'd your cousin ? 
JvX. Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband ? " 

In Juliet's answer we see that her intellect was as clear, her 
sense of duty in the position she had chosen as vivid, as her 
feelings were quick and strong. 

'^ Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name. 
When 1, thy three-hours' wife, have mangled it ?*' 

Whoever is to blame, it cannot be her lord. She drives away 
her tears at the remembrance that her 

1 64 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

^' HuBband lives, that Tybalt would have slain ; 
And Tybalf 8 dead, that would have slain my husband : 
All this is comfort ; wherefore weep I then ? " 

Memory now brings back the dreadful word, which she would 
fain forget, " that murdered her." 

'< < Tybalt is dead, and Romeo banished ; ' 
That ' banished,' that one word ' banished,' 
Hath slain ten thousand Tybalts." 

The very Nurse is touched by a depth of grief such as she 
had never seen, could hardly understand, and she tries to find 
some means of consolation. 

*' Hie to your chamber : I'll find Romeo 
To comfort you : — I wot well where he is. 
Hark ye, your Romeo will be here at night : 
111 to him ; he is hid at Laurence' celL 

Jul, 0, find him ! give this ring to my true knight, 
And bid him come to take his last farewelL" 

No word of blame, although he has killed her kinsman and 
destroyed their own happiness ! She even sends a ring, as if 
desirous to bind herself more closely to him, and betroth her- 
self anew in their affliction. 

Juliet's despair has its counterpart in that of Romeo, as we 
next see him at the Friar's cell ; nay, if not deeper, it is wilder 
in its expression, when he learns from the Friar's lips the 
Prince's sentence — 

" Not body's death, but body's banishment. 
Bom, .... Be merciful, say ' death ' ; 
For exile hath more terror in his look. 
Much more than death : do not say 'banishment.'" 

Vainly does the Friar try to press upon him his 

Juliet. 165 

'* Rude unthankfulness. 
Thy &ult our law calls death ; but the kind prince, 
Taking thy part, hath msh'd aside the law 
And tum'd that black word death to banishment : 
This is dear mercy, and thou seest it not 

£om. Tis torture, and not mercy : heaven is here, 
Where Juliet lives." 

The Friar can neither dispute with him on his estate, nor bring 
" adversity's sweet milk, philosophy," to help him. 

*' lUmn Tet ' banished ' \ — Hang up philosophy ! 
Unless philosophy can make a Juliet, 
Displant a town, reverse a prince's doom, 
It helps not, it prevails not ; talk no more." 

Not even the arrival of the Nurse, as Juliet's messenger, can 
arouse him from the frenzy of grief in which he has flung him- 
self upon the ground, "taking the measure of an unmade grave." 
When he becomes conscious of her presence, and learns the 
state of his mistress, since he has " stained the childhood of 
their joy with blood removed but little from her own," his 
first impulse is to draw his sword and destroy himself. But 
now the Friar's language rises to a higher strain : — 

" Art thou a man 1 thy form cries out, thou art : 
Thy tears are womamsh ; thy wild acts denote 
The unreasonable fury of a beast 

« * a . . • 

I thought thy disposition better tempered. 
Hast thou slain Tybalt ? wilt thou slay thyself? 
And slay thy lady too that lives in thee, 
By doing damnkl hate upon thyself? 
. ..... 

What, rouse thee, man ! thy Juliet is alive, 
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead : 
There art thou happy : Tybalt would kill thee, 

1 66 Shakespeare s Female Characters: 

Bat thoa deVst Tybalt ; there art thou happj too : 
The law, that thieaten'd death, becomes th j friend. 
And turns it into exile ; there art thou happ j : 
A pack of blessings lights npon thy back." 

Juliet's dear intellect quickly absolves Borneo from blame 
for having slain Tybalt, " that would have slain her husband ; " 
but the Friar has to reason this out for Bomeo, who is too 
generous to find excuses for himself. The Fiiar, moreover, 
proves no mere preacher of what the Nurse calls ''good 
counseL" He is also a man of action. He bids Bomeo keep 
the meeting with his bride. 

" Go, get thee to thy love, as was decreed, 
Ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her : 
But look thou stay not till the watch be set. 
For then thou canst not pass to Mantua," 

where he is to live untQ the Friar can find a time, which he 

does not doubt of finding soon, to make the marriage known, 

reconcile the lovers' parents, turn by this '' their households' 

rancour to pure love," secure the Prince's pardon and Bomeo's 


" Qo before, nnrse : conmiend me to thy lady ; 

And bid her hasten all the house to bed. 

Which heavy sorrow makes them apt unto : 

Bomeo is coming." 

The Friar, who knows human nature in all its varieties, 
proves a most wise and comforting counsellor to Bomeo. But 
his sagacity has no power to foresee what is now going on in 
the house of the Gapulets to upset all his plans for the present 
and future happiness of the lovers. Bemembering that it is 
already very late and the night setting in, he suggests to 
Bomeo that, if he cannot get away from his interview with 

Juliet. 167 

Juliet before the watch is set, he should depart in disguise by 
the break of day. He promises that he will find out Borneo's 
man, and signify through him " from time to time every good 
hap to you that chances here.'' Bomeo, repentant and deeply 
grateful, leaves him, saying — 

'* But that a joy past joy calls out on me, 
It were a grief so soon to part with thee : 
Farewell ! " 

Shakespeare shows his wondrous skill in dramatic con- 
struction by the brief scene which he interposes here between 
Lord and Lady Capulet and Paris. They have been discussing 
the projected marriage of their daughter, which Paris is there 
to press, and have been sitting late in council The result is, 
that Lord Capulet has determined it shall take place : — 

** Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender 
Of my child's love : I think she will be ruled 
In all respects by me ; nay more, I doubt it not." 

To his wife, who has said she will know Juliet's mind early 

to-morrow, as " to-night she's mew'd up to her heaviness," he 

says — 

'* Wife, go you to her ere you go to bed ; 

Acquaint her here of my son Paris' love. 

0* Thursday, tell her, 
She shall be married to this noble earl ; ^ — 

quite ignoring what he has said early in the play — 

" But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart. 
My will to her consent ib but a part ; 
An she agree, within her scope of choice 
Lies my consent and fjEdr according voice." 

Poor Juliet ! She is to be no exception to the truth, that 


troafales nerrer ooone am^. That idddi k noir in flfcone go& 
cftr OfBcpcT tixcn crm i2ic M^ u-wfe ctf tMrtxiw frnnp j^gt juvisF- 
husbtnd. ndfi is a wvbH m^ JndBod: — lifak BcnlangBdriar, 

What a preLode is tiik Boene of cnld, wcsldlf dwpwmg of 
hearts and hres to liiax ikiv fliiamug hetveen l^ loves, 
which ShaJceepeare makes to talce jdaoe <b 1^ toj halfsonj 
or fa9!|^ which was {xmBeczalad bf liie £iBt avowal of tiheir 
love! In that ms^atin^ what extremea of rsjiUire acnd of 
anguish! The hoorcif parting has axxrvod. Jnliet has been too 
modi ahsorbed in their loveandtiieirwDeto^veathoii^io 
the suit of Pazis; bat in this sad hour the mmfimhimnoe of it 
most doabtlBBS have oome upcai her, and HBPniftd to aepaimtp 
her atSl farther from her husband. She will not add to the 
borthen of his gnef bj confiding to him this new trial, and 
all the perBecaticm it may bring i^Km hec AH is bad eooog^ 
withoat this dread apprehension ; jet it adds a special terror 
to his going. It cannot be that day is bo near at hand. The 
same nightiTigalfi, whose song had soonded bo sweedy in their 
ears the previoas night, had been Rrngfng in the same pome- 
granate-tree. Tet how different the soand! And now 
another strain strikes harshly on their ears. The lazk, the 
herald of the mom, is carolling its g^ note as it ** mounts 
ap on high,** How crael is its joy ! Their days will all seem 
nig^its ontil they meet again. Seeing that 

" Nig^*fi cazidlef are bnnit cnzt^ and jocund dtj 
Stands tiptoe on the nuBtj moxmUin-topB,** 

Borneo sadly says — " I most be gone and live, or stay and die." 
Joliet will not believe in the so rapid approach of day. They 
seem hardly to have met 

Juliet. 169 

" Yon light is not day-light ; . . . 
It ifl some meteor that the sun exhales, 
To be to thee this night a torch-bearer, 
And light thee on thy way to Mantoa : 
Therefore stay yet, thon need'st not to be gone 


Borneo, willing to risk all in order to remain even for a short 
time near her, exclaims — 

^ ril say, yon grey is not the morning's eye ; 

• ••••• 

Nor that is not the lark, whose notes do beat 

The vanity heaven so high above oar heads. 

• ••••• 

Come, death, and welcome ! Juliet wills it so. 
How i8*t, my soul ? let's talk, it is not day.** 

At the word ''deathi' Juliet at once realises the risk he is 
nmning, and hurries him away — " 0, now be gone ; more light 
and light it grows." The Nurse comes to caution them that 
the '' day is broke," and to tell Juliet that her lady mother 
is coming to her chamber. 

Oh the cry of the poor forlorn heart when Bomeo has de- 
scended the ladder of ropes and she sees him there, where the 
day before he had looked up in the rapture of hope under the 
same grey morning light ! " Art thou gone so, love, lord ? — ^ay , 
husband, friend ! " Ever, when I acted this scene, these words 
came from me like the cry of my own heart, and all that fol- 
lowed seemed the very voice of my own " ill-divining soul." 

'* Jul. 0, think*st thon we shall ever meet again) 
BofiA, I doubt it not ; and all these woes shall serve 

For sweet discourses in our time to come. 
Jul, God ! I have an ill-divining soul : 

Methinks I see thee, now thou art below, 

As one dead in the bottom of a tomb." 

And only thus it is that her eyes ever again behold him ! 

1 70 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

To add to her almost intolerable miseiy, now appears her 
mother, who shows some surprise at finding her daughter up 
at so late an hour, and drowned in tears. " Why, how now, 
Juliet ? " << Madam, I am not welL" No sympathy comes from 
the cold mother, who only says, somewhat sarcastically — 

« Evermore weepmg for yoor cousin's death ? 

What, wilt thou wash him from Ids grave with tears ? 
• • • • • • • 

Well, well, thou hast a careful fitther, child — 
One who, to pat thee firom thy heaviness, 
Hath sorted out a sadden day of joy. 
That thou expect^st not, nor I look'd not for. 
.... Early next Thursday morn, 

The gallant, young, and noble gentleman. 
The County Fkris, at St Peter^s church. 
Shall happily make thee there a joyfal bride." 

Juliet^ affiighted, amazed at this sudden woe and peril, replies 
angrily — 

" Now, by St Peter's church, and Peter too. 
He shall not make me there a joyful bride. 
I wonder at this haste ; that I must wed 
Ere he, that should be husband, comes to woo. 
I pray you, tell my lord and father, madam, 
I will not marry yet" 

Gapulet a little doubtful how his young daughter may take 
the news of these hasty nuptials, but not questioning her 
assent in the end, now enters her chamber with the Nurse. 
To his amazement, his wife tells him that Juliet will not hear 
of the marriage — " she will none " of it, adding, " I would the 
fool were married to her grave!'' Does she think of this 
hereafter? Capulet's indignation knows no bounds. 

^* Is she not proud ? doth she not coimt her blest, 
Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought 
So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom ? " 

Juliet 171 

Juliet on her knees entreats her father to hear her ''with 
patience but to speak a word." But he grows hotter and 
hotter at finding determined opposition where he had looked 
for little. The Nurse is rebuked for taking Juliet's part and 
saying, " You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so." " And 
why, my lady wisdom ? Hold your tongue ! " And he leaves 
Juliet with this threat : — 

" Look to% think on't, I do not use to jest 
Thursday is near ; lay hand on heart, advise : 
An you be mine, 111 give you to my friend ; 
An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, 
For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee, 
Nor what is mine shall never do thee good : 
Trust tot, bethink you ; I'll not be forsworn." 

Juliet in her anguish cries out — 

" Is there no pity sitting in the clouds, 
That sees into the bottom of my grief? " 

Then turns to her mother with the piteous appeal — 

" 0, sweet my mother, cast me not away ! 
Delay this marriage for a month, a week ; 
Or, if you do not, make the bridal bed 
In that dim monument where Tybalt lies ! " 

Prophetic words, which might well have startled the formal 
mother's ears; but she replies in feeble imitation of her 
husband, and in language which sounds more shocking than 
his, because not spoken in hot passion — 

'' Talk not to me, for 111 not speak a word ; 
Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee." 

And now only the Nurse remains. She at least is sure. She 
is her own, and never could desert the foster-child, whom she 

1 72 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

nnisedy that took the place of her own Susan, " who is with 
God.'' Juliet turns to her as her last but certain comforter : — 

''0 nurse, how shall this be preyented? 

• • • • • • 

Alack, alack, that heaven should practise stratagems 
Upon so soft a subject as myself ! 
What say'st thou % hast thou not a word of joy ? 
Some comfort, nurse ! " 

Alas for Juliet ! Comfort from a creature so shallow-hearted, 
so selfish, so untrue ! We see that the Nurse has been pon- 
dering over the situation. The parents are not to be moved. 
To confess to them the part she has played in the secret 
marriage is not to be thought ol She would lose the home 
which she looks upon as her own for life, and be sent from it 
in disgrace. This young girl cannot help her; why should 
she, therefore, risk comfort and respectability on her account ? 
She knows nothing of the sympathy of soul with soul — of the 
heaven-given impulse, which has drawn the lovers together ; 
the love ''that looks on tempests and is never shaken;" the 
feeling that in Juliet consecrates her person, as it has bound 
her soul, to Bomeo. No ! The conclusion she comes to and 
the counsel she gives is, that Bomeo 


Is banish'd : and all the world to nothing, 
That he dares ne*er come back to challenge you ; 
Or, if he do, it needs must be by stealth. 
Then, since the case so stands as now it doth, 
I think it best you married with the county." 

Then, to reassure and encourage Juliet, as she stands in dumb 

astonishment — 

*' 0, he's a lovely gentleman ! 
.... An eagle, madam, 

Juliet. 173 

Hath not bo green, so quick, so fair an eye, 
Ab Paris hath. Beahrew my very heart, 
I think yon are happy in this second match. 
For it excels your first." 

All my blood seemed to be forced back upon my heart as I 
listened to these words. I grew as stone when she went on 
to descant upon the praises of Paris in contrast with Borneo. 
What can be said in answer to such words, such comfort, such 
counsel ? I have often been startled at the sad solemnity of 
my own tones, as I put the question, '' Speakest thou from 
thy heart?" and in the very significant "Amen!" which 
follows her reply — " From my soul too ; or else beshrew them 

Juliet's hope, her trust in the one on whose devotion she 
felt assured she might rely, is at an end, and now she sees, as 
she had never seen before, the Nurse's character in its true 
light. Stolid as the Nurse is, and incapable of any finer 
feeling, yet we see, by her startled " What ? what ? " that she 
notes the difierence in Juliet's tone and manner. For the 
first time Juliet assumes her position as mistress towards her, 
and after the half -sarcastic "Well, thou hast comforted me 
marvellous much," orders her to go in and tell her mother 
that she has gone, having displeased her father, to Friar 
Laurence's cell, "to make confession, and to be absolved." 

Alas, again, for Juliet ! The familiar ground which she 
has trodden, to which she has trusted all her life taken from 
under her, and she left standing alone — cast off by all within 
her home ! Worse than cast away by the Nurse, who knows 
all her trouble, and would have her meet it in this despicable 
manner! She makes no remonstrance: no further appeal 
could be made to such a creature. Her tears are dried, and 

1 74 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

she stands erect in her desolation. Alone she must face the 
future — a future steeped in gloom. The child's trust in others 
falls from her : " her soul springs up astonished — springs full- 
statured in an hour." She is henceforth the determined 
woman. She will not condescend to bandy more words with 
the Nurse — who, being incapable of understanding her nature, 
does not deserve her consideration — Je^, when alone her pent- 
up indignation and scorn find a way to her lips : — 

'< most wicked fiend ! 
Is it more sin to wish me thus forsworn, 
Or to dispraise my lord with that same tongue 
Which she hath praised him with above compare 
So many thousand times ? Gk>, counsellor ; 
Thou and my bosom henceforth «hall be twain." 

Whatever happens, their lives are henceforth separate. 
Bather than follow such counsel she will end her life! 
In this supreme moment she has formed her resolution. 
'' 111 to the friar, to know his remedy.'' Then remembering 
and possessing herself of the dagger, which had been the 
toy of her happy hours, she adds — 

'* If all else fidl, myself have power to die.'* 

It is for the actress, in this marvellous and most difficult 
scene, to show, by her look and manner, how everything that 
is girlish and immature, — all that, xmder happy circumstances, 
would have marked the gentle clinging nature of youth, — 
falls off from Juliet, how she is transfigured into the heroic 
woman just as Bomeo, when possessed by a genuine passion, 
rises from the dreaming youth to the fuU stature of a noble 

This difference is plainly marked in her dignified treatment 

Juliet. 1 75 

of Paris, whom ahe finds before her at the Friar's celL The 
Nurse's praises, still sounding in her ears, make him par- 
ticularly unwelcome to her. He evidently thinks her father's 
sanction to their marriage is all-sufficient, and with self- 
complacent impertinence treats her as though she were already 
his property. Juliet's curt and somewhat sarcastic answers 
to his questions should have shown hun how distasteful he 
was to her ; but he believes he must be an acceptable suitor 
to any lady. Even her evident impatience to get rid of him 
tells him nothing. He chooses to believe that her confession 
to the Friar is partly made on his account. 

" Fw. Do not deny to him that you love me. 
•Tul. I will confess to you that I love him. 
Fw. So will you, I am sure, that you love me." 

After a little more of this fencing, Juliet, seeing that he will 
not leave them, turns to the Friar — " Are you at leisure, holy 
father, now ? " Such a hint cannot but be taken, and Paris 
leaves her with the promise — 

"Juliet, on Thursday early will I rouse you : 
TiU then, adieu ! '^ 

No sooner is the door shut upon him, than she finds that 
through Paris the Friar is already acquainted with her grief ; 
"it strains me/' he says, ''past the compass of my wits." 
The Friar can hardly be prepared to find how rapidly the 
extremity which has so suddenly come upon Juliet has 
developed her character. The determined resolute com- 
posure which she shows could alone have encouraged him 
to suggest to her the desperate remedy which is the only 
"kind of hope" he has to oflTer her. 

1 76 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

*^ JvL Qod join'd my heart and Romeo's, thou oar hands ; 
And ere this hand, by thee to Romeo sealed. 
Shall be the label to another deed. 
Or my trae heart with treacherous revolt 
Turn to another, this shall slay them both. 

• ••••••a 

Be not so long to speak ; I long to die, 

If what thou speak'st speak not of remedy." 

The Friar must see how ready she is to sacrifice the life 
consecrated to her lover; and he at once explains that the 
only escape he had been able to devise was a desperate and 
terrible one. But if she be prepared, as she says, to face 
death itself, she may not hesitate to undertake "a thing 
like death to chide away this shame." 

In her answer JuUet proclaims with passionate vehemence 
her readiness to tsLce such terrors as he might think would 
affiright her most, if only she may live ''an unstained wife 
to her sweet love." There is such proof of earnest purpose 
in this, that the Friar no longer hesitates to lay his device 
before her. She is in no way appalled by the thought of 
being laid for dead for a certain time in her ancestral 
tomb. Is she not assured that by the time she will awake, 
her Bomeo, summoned by the Friar, will be by her side, and 
bear her thence '' that very night to Mantua ? " 

" If no unconstant toy, nor womanish fear, 
Abate thy valour in the acting it." 

" Give me, give me ! tell me not of fear," she exclaims, 
as she seizes the phial; "Love give me strength!" What 
strength love gives her we are soon to see — love true and 
unwavering as that she plighted in the words— 

" But trust me, gentleman, 111 prove more true 
Than those that have more cunning to be strange." 

Juliet. 177 

Lord Capulet, unused to be thwarted, must be in a fever 
of impatience to know what efifect the Friar's admonitions 
have had upon his wayward daughter, in whom he now traces 
some of his own imperious will. His surprise and delight, 
therefore, know no bounds when she returns apparently 
contrite and ready to obey his will — ^nay, as willing as 
himself to expedite matters. 

" Send for the county ; go tell him of this : 

ril have this knot knit up to-morrow morning. 

• ••••• 

Now, afore Qod, this reverend holy friar, 

All our whole city is much bound up in him.*' 

Juliet says — 

« Nurse, will you go with me into my closet, 
To help me sort such needful ornaments 
As you think fit to famish me to-morrow ? '* 

Lady Capulet, wishing to keep to the original day, breaks in 
with — " No, not till Thursday ; there is time enough." Lord 
Capulet, most anxious to take Juliet while in the vein, 
exclaims, " Go, nurse, go with her ; we'll to church to-morrow." 
Still Lady Capulet remonstrates — 

" We shall be short in our provision ; 

*Tis now near night 

0(vp, Tush ! I will stir about, 

And all things shall be well, I warrant, wife ; 

Qo thou to Juliet, help to deck her up ; 

m not to bed to-night 
• • * • • • • 

My heart is wondrous light, 

Since this same wayward girl is so reclaimed." 

Juliet is now in her chamber, and has let the Nurse choose 
any dress she pleases for the intended ceremony on the 


1 78 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

morrow. " Ay, those attires are best." The same, doubtless, 
that she was really robed in for her grave. She must be 
at peace now, even with the treacherous woman who had 
so &iled her in her utmost need, for this is their last meeting. 
She asks the Nurse to leave her — 

" For I have need of many orisons 
To move the heavens to smile upon my state. 
Which, well thou know'st, is cross and fall of sin." 

Lady Capulet comes in to inquire if her help is needed. 
Juliet replies that all is ready, and asks to be left alone, 
adding — 

'^ And let the nurse this night sit up with you ; 
For, I am sure, you have your hands full all. 
In this so sudden business." 

Lady Capulet, who sees nothing in her daughter's change of 
manner but what she considers natural in the situation — 
wrought in her, doubtless, by the good Friar's spiritual advice 
and counsel — ^bids her ** good night " in the usual way, only 
adding, as she knew JuUet had been waking and weeping 
all the previous night, " Gret thee to bed, and rest ; for thou 
hast need.'' 

With what awe, with what dread fascination, I used to 
approach what follows ! I always felt a kind of icy coldness 
and stillness come over me after leaving the Friar's cell which 
lasted until this moment. The " Farewell ! " to Lady Capulet, 
— " Grod knows when we shall meet again," — relaxed this state 
of tension. When I knelt to my father, I had mutely, in 
kissing his hand, taken leave of him ; but now my mother — 
the mother whose sympathy would have been so precious — 
was leaving me to my lonely despair. This breaking up of 

Juliet 179 

all the natural ties of youth and home, the heart-sick feeling 
of desolation, overpowered me, and sobs came against my wilL 
The very room looked strange, larger, darker, with but the 
faint light of the lamp, which threw the recesses of the win- 
dows and the heavy furniture into deeper shade. I used to 
take up the lamp and peer into the shadows, to try to take 
away their terror. Already I could fancy I had descended 
into the vault. 

*' I have a faint cold fear thrillB through my veins. 
That almost freezes up the heat of life.** 

There was no enduring it : '' I'll call them back again to com- 
fort me ; — ^Nurse ! " No ! I have forgot. " What should she 
do here ? " No one must know, — '' my dismal scene I needs 
must act alone." Hitherto all has been as the Friar ordered : 
his instructions have been faithfully carried out Now Juliet 
stands, for the first time, alone, to think over and to face what 
is to follow. She does not waver, but she has to put before 
herself the dread realities which must be encountered in the 
way of the escape devised for her. The hush of the unaccus- 
tomed solitude is strange, for the Nurse has been always near 
her until this night. Things undreamt of take possession of 
her brain. A swift, sudden death, such as she had pictured to 
the Friar, would have no terror ; but slow horrors seem now 
to gather round her. 

" What if this mixture do not work at all 1 
Shall I be married then to-monow morning?" 

No! There is a remedy against that The dagger is kept 
near her heart, and will find its place in it if necessary. 
Then again, it may be a poison subtly administered by the 
Friar, lest he should be dishonoured, " because he married me 

1 80 Shakespeare 5 Female CharacUrs 

before to Bamea" This though is pat aside at cmoe as un- 
worthy — ** for he hath still been tried a hoi j man." But now 
imagination ocmjnres np a much more terrible vision, and such 
as mi^ appal the bravest heart : — 

"' How if^ when I am \kA into the tomb, 
I wake before the time that BcHneo 
Come to redeem me!" 

This is indeed " a fearful point ! " 9ie has seen die outside 
of the family vault ; the space remaining cannot be large, it 
being already full of her kindred, who have been boried there 
for ''many hundred years." Bemembering the custom of 
burying the corpse uncovered on the bier, to fall bit by bit 
into decay, the air, such air as may find its way in, laden with 
tlie odours of decaying mortality, may stifle her, — ^nay, the 
foul mouth of the vault is not large enou^ to let in die 
^ healthsome air," and she will " there die stranded ere my 
Bomeo comes." Or if not — if she should live — ^how is she to 

** The horrible conceit of death and night, 

Together wiUi the tenor of the place, — 

• •«•■* 

Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth. 
Lies festering in his ahroud " ? ^ 

Horror accumulates upon horror. Wandering spirits resort 
to such spots. What with loathsome smells, the shrieks of 
mandrakes torn out of the earth, she will go mad 

^ Environed with all these hideous fears. 
• ••••• 

And in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone, 

As with a club, dash out my desperate brains ! " 

* I could never utter these words without an exclamation of shuddering dis- 
gust escaping with them. 

yuliet. i8i 

For the moment the great fear gets the better of the great 
love, and all seems madness. Then in her frenzy of excite- 
ment she seems to see Tybalt's figure start into life — 

** Look I methinks I see my couBin's ghost 
Seekiog out Romeo ! . . . 

Stay, Tybalt, stay I " 

At the mention of Bomeo's name, I used to feel all my resolu- 
tion return. Bomeo ! She goes to meet him, and what terror 
shall hold her back? She will pass through the horror of 
hell itself to reach what lies beyond; and she swallows the 
potion with his name upon her lips — " Bomeo, I come ! this 
do I drink to thee!" 

What a scene is this — so simple, so grand, so terrible! 
What it is to act I need not tell you. What power it 
demands, and yet what restraint ! To be tame would be to 
make the words ridiculous. The voice must be as capable of 
variety of expression as are the words, — the action simple, 
earnest, impressiva Bepetition, certainly, had no effect in 
making the scene less vivid to my imagination. The last 
time I played Juliet, which was in Manchester in 1871, I 
fainted on the bed at the end of it, so much was I overcome 
with the reality of the " thick-coming fancies," — just as the 
first time I played the part I had fainted at the sight of my 
own blood, which, for the moment, seemed to make the scene 
all too real. I am not given to fainting, indeed I have very 
rarely known the sensation. But the fascination which the 
terrible had for me from the first, it maintained to the last ; 
and as the images which the poet suggests rose in cumulative 
horror before my mind, the stronger imagination of riper years 
gave them, no doubt, a greater power over my nervous system. 

t82 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

and for the tiine overcame me. I know no scene in Shake- 
ispeare more difficult. Three such scenes for the actress in 
one play — ^the balcony scene, the scene when Juliet hears of 
Borneo's banishment, and this ! Alas ! who could hope to do 
them full justice ? 

While the daughter of the house is contending with the 
horrors that crowd on her imagination at the thought of 
the "nest of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep," in 
which she is presently to be laid, Shakespeare, with a true 
painter's eye for contrast, lets us see a little of the busy life 
which is in the meantime going on in the background 
through the night in the bustle of preparation for these hasty 
nuptials. Day is breaking, yet Capulet has not been in 

bed: — 

" Come, stir, stir, stir ! the second cock bath crow'd, 
The curfew-bell hath rung, 'tis three o'clock." 

While Lady Capulet and the Nurse are equally active in get- 
ting " spices and quinces " for the operations of the kitchen, 
servants are seen moving to and fro with spits, logs, and 
baskets — 

" Cap. Now, fellow, what's there ? 
Firsi Servant, Things for the cook, sir ; but I know not what 
Cap, Make baste, make haste ! Sirrah, fetch drier logs. 

The county will be here with music straight. 
For so he said he would. I hear him near." 

The Nurse is despatched in haste to Juliet to waken her, 
and "trim her up." All this stir and bustle of festal pre- 
paration the prelude to the hushed solemnity of death! 
What a picture meets the eyes of the stricken parents, the 
faithless Nurse, the assured and triumphant bridegroom! 

yuliet. 183 

Friar Laurence, knowing what he does of them and their 
poor victims, may well cut short their selfish lamentations by 
the words — 

" The heavens do lour upon you for some ill, — 
Move them no more by crossing their high wilL** 

The close of the fourth act leaves us in uncertainty, but 
still with a kind of hope that all these woes may serve " for 
sweet discourses in the time to coma" There seems to be 
no necessity for a tragic ending. Bomeo is safe in Mantua, 
awaiting, with all the patience he can, the news which the 
Friar is to send him through his man from time to time of 
"every good hap that chances here." Friar John has been 
sent to him with all speed with a letter apprising hhn of 
what has just happened — a letter which will bring him back 
on the instant to Verona. Juliet is safe from her parents' 
importunity in the " pleasant sleep " which is to end in such 
a happy waking. All seems to go well. 

But Destiny now steps in again. The Fates are spinning, 
spinning out the doom of the lovers, and will not be thwarted. 

The fifth act of this play has always impressed me as being 
wonderfully beautiful,— simple, human, and grand as the finest 
of the Greek plays ; much finer, indeed — for the ancients knew 
nothing of the passion of love in its purity, its earnestness, 
its devotedness, its self-sacrifice. It needed Christianity to 
teach us this, and a Shakespeare in the drama to illustrate 
it The Greek dramatists, as a rule, preserved the unities 
of time, place, and action. Shakespeare put them aside for 
higher purposes. His genius could not be so trammelled. 
Human lives and human minds he took to work upon, and 
made all outside matter subservient to Iiis great end. Time, 

1 84 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

place, action, were his instruments, and he made them submit 
to him. He looked to the " beyond beyond/' where no time 
is, and would not subject himself to mere days and houn, 
which at the best come and go unheeded, some flying, others 
dragging tlioir weary length along. 

In the opening of the act we meet Bomeo in Mantua. 
Grief has matured, ennobled hinL He is full of buoyant 
hopes because of a happy dream. In the first act, before 
be goes to the revels, he says, '' 'Tis no wit to go. I dream'd 
a dream to-night** Tliis dream was of a kind evidently to 
set him against going to the house of his enemy. But, 
following on Uus dream of warning, comes the greatest joy 
of Ills life. The present dream supposes, curiously, that he, 
Insteail of his lady, was lying dead, and that her kisses 
broatlied such new life into lum that he '' revived, and was 
an emperor,** Now, in the climax of this joyful antici- 
pation, oomes Balthaiar with news from Verona. Has he 
brought letters from the Friar f Na Then, 

** How doth ii\y Uidj t la my CrUmt wdl ! 
How lkre« uxy JuUt^t t ThiU I nak again, 
FVv nothing cmui be iU« if «^i> bl^ welL 

iM Thtm ahtik i« w«ll, iohI nothing can be ill. 
Hex boiij iile<»][i« in dpePa nKmumcnt, 
And h«ar immiutU |>iuri with imgeU live& 
I naw h«r laid low in 1k4' kindi^Vs vmult" 

Roineo*3 grief is t\f that overwhelming kind which finds 
no vent in wonis. He simjvly says, "Is it even so? then 
I defy yv>u^ stm^l" On the instant he sees his course. 
He gives a fi^w Inief ilirei'ti\\ns to his serx-ant to hire post- 
lioi9e9i» and dismisjws him with r^newe^l ixgunctions — "and 
hire those howea; VU U^ with thee stnughu" What a 

Juliet 185 

change the shock has wrought upon him in a moment is 
seen in Balthazar's words! — 

'* I do beseech you, sir, have patience ; 
Your looks aie pale and wild." 

Bomeo asks no questions, seeks for no details. In the 
anguish of a sudden blow it is not the greatest sufferer 
who wants to know particulars. The " why ? " the " when ? " 
the "where?" come from others less deeply stricken. The 
thought may pass through Bomeo's mind of the pale face 
he had last looked upon in the anguish of parting. "Dry 
sorrow" has indeed "drunk her blood" and snapped her 
life's strings. 

" Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night 
Let's see for means. mischief^ thou art swift 
To enter in the thoughts of desperate men ! '* 

Swift — too swift ; for already Destiny had thrown the means 
across his path. 

" I do remember an apothecary, 
And hereabouts he dwells. . . . 
Noting his penury, to myself I said — 
An if a man did need a poison now, 

• ••••• 

Here lives a caitiff wretch would sell it him. 

O, this same thought did but forerun my need ! 

• •.•*. 

Come, cordial, and not poison ; go with me 
To Juliet's grave, for there must I use thee." 

With what a subtle touch Shakespeare reveals to us the 
state of Bomeo's mind during his hurried night-ride to 
Verona! for, as an exiled man, he must still use "night's 
cloak" to hide him from men's eyes. His man, thinking 

r86 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

the details of what had happened in Verona deeply interest- 
ing, would fain tell him all,; — spare his master nothing of 
the elaborate ceremony which he had witnessed of Juliet's 
entombment, or of the gossip which he has heard around 
of the unusual sadness of the event — of her youth, her 
beauty, and of the day on which she died having been 
appointed for her marriage with the rich County Paris. 
But Bomeo heeds nothing. One all-absorbing thought 
possesses him — to hasten on and lie by Juliet's side in 

The next scene shows us how the Fates have been at 
work, using the plague which was then raging in part of 
Verona as an instrument of their will. Friar John, while 
seeking the " associate " who was to accompany him to Ve- 
rona, is found in a house suspected of infection, and is shut 
up there, so that he can neither send on to Mantua the letter 
intrusted to him, nor get it returned to Friar Laurence. He 
brings it back after this delay, when the time for it to be of 
use has long gone by. " Unhappy fortune ! " says Friar Lau- 
rence; but as he evidently thought Eomeo could not have 
heard what had happened through any other channel, he pro- 
poses to write again to him, and in the meantime to bring 
Juliet away on her awaking, and keep her at his cell. 

On Romeo's arrival at the churchyard, he finds Paris there 
before him, strewing the tomb with flowers. Paris has loved 
Juliet to the best of his nature, and mourns her in a gentle 
sentimental way : — 

" Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew : 
The obsequies that I for thee will keep, 
Nightly shall be, to strew thy grave and weep." 

Juliet. 187 

He retires when his page warns him of the approach of 
Borneo ; but on witnessing what he supposes to be desecration 
of the tomb of the Capulets, he breaks in with — 

'' Stop thy unhallow'd toil, vile Montague ! 
Condemned villain^ I do apprehend thee ! " 

Borneo proves his gentle, noble nature by showing the same 

forbearance to Paris with which he had met the insolence 

of Tybalt:— 

^ Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man ; 

Fly hence and leave me 

I beseech thee, youth. 
Put not another sin upon my head, 
By urging me to fury ! — 0, begone ! 
By heaven, I love thee better than myself : 
For I come hither arm'd against myself.'' 

Paris will not be persuaded, and Bomeo is not to be balked. 

They fight, and it is only when Paris has fallen that he is 

recognised by Bomeo as '' Mercutio's kinsman, noble County 

Paris." Then something crosses his mind as to what his 

man had talked of on the road — 

" When my betoesed soul 
Did not attend him as we rode ? I think, 
He told me, Paris should have married Juliet : 
Said he not so ? or did I dream it so ? 
Or am I mad, hearing him talk of Juliet, 
To think it was so ? '' 

To the man who would have been his foe alive, he can say in 

death — 

'* 0, give me thy hand, 

One writ with me in sour misfortune's book ! 

I'll bury thee in a triumphant grave. 

• ••••• 

For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes 
This vault a feasting presence fuU of light" 

1 88 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

We may conceive the anguish of the cry that now breaks 

from him :— 

" my love ! my wife ! 
Death, that hath snck'd the honey of thy breath, 
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty." 

"The roses on her lips and cheeks," which under the first 
influence of the potion had faded " to paly ashes,'' have begun 
to return, as its eflfects are dying away. How much is the 
pathos of the scene deepened by the circumstance that Bomeo 
sees nothing in this to make him hesitate ! He thinks only 
that "beauty's ensign" is still "crimson in her lips and in 
her cheeks," and that for a while "death's pale flag is not 
advanced there." He now sees what she had truly pictured 
to herself, the body of Tybalt " uncovered on the bier " close 
beside her. Ever generous and forgiving himself, he turns 
to ask the forgiveness of his foe: — 

*' Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet ? 
0, what more favour can I do to thee, 
Than with that hand which cut thy youth in twain 
To sunder his that was thine enemy ? 
Forgive me, cousin ! — Ah, dear Juliet, 
Why art thou yet so fair ? . . . 

Here, here will I remain 
With worms that are thy chamber-maids ; O, here 
Will I set up my everlasting rest, 
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars 
From this world-wearied flesh. 

• • * • • • 

Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide ! 

Here's to my love ! " 

Even so had it been with Juliet before — " Eomeo, I drink to 

Juliet. 189 

While this is going on at the tomb of the Capolets, and on 

the very instant of Borneo's exclamation, " true apothecary, 

thy drugs are quick! Thus with a kiss I die," — Friar 

Laurence enters at the far end of the churchyard, with a 

crowbar and all the materials for opening the monument. 

As he makes his way towards it he says, groping his way 


" Saint Francis be my speed ! how oft to-night 
Have my old feet stumbled at graves." 

Someo's man, who has been enjoined, at peril of his life, to 
keep aloof, tells the Friar of Someo's advent at the tomb. 
The Friar's worst fears are aroused by this, — 

*^ Fear comes upon me : 
0, much I fear some ill unlucky thing." 

He calls on Bomeo's name; finds the sepulchre open, and 

at the entrance of it, '' masterless and gory swords." Entering 

he sees — 

'^ Romeo ! 0, pale ! — Who else ? what^ Paris too ? 
And steep*d in blood ?" 

Before he has recovered the shock of this discovery Juliet 
awakes '' as from a pleasant sleep." Her first sight is of the 
Friar. This is as she was promised. Her brain is clear, her 
memory active. 

^ comfortable friar, where is my lord ? 
1 do remember well where I should be. 
And there I am. — Where is my Romeo ?" 

Noises in the distance tell the Friar that the watch is ap- 

" Lady, come from that nest 

Of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep : 

A greater power than we can contradict 

Hath thwarted our intents. Come, come away." 

1 90 Shakespeare s Female C/iaracters : 

Is it likely when he adds 

*' Thy husband in thy bosom there lies dead. 
. . . Come, V\\ dispose of thee 
Among a sisterhood of holy nuns : 
Stay not to question, for the watch is coming.'' 

What a moment for Juliet ! She has braved all the horrors 
which her imagination so vividly pictured for the sake of 
him who now lies dead before her. She has wakened for 
this I She has no questions, no words. Her heart is bank- 
rupt utterly. If she can think at all, it is that Someo has 
found her dead, and, to f oUow her quickly, has taken poison. 
She finds the phial closed tightly in his hand. She utters no 
reproaches, except the loving one — 

" churl ! drink all ; and leave no friendly drop, 
To help me after ! " 

The poor old Friar, in his grief and utter bewilderment at 
this "lamentable chance," finding all his efforts fruitless to 
tear Juliet from her husband's body, as the noise of the 
approaching crowd comes nearer, at last leaves her. Juliet, 
glad of the release, says, " Go, get thee hence, for I will not 
away." The noise comes nearer still. To be found alive 
would be to be separated from her lover. The dagger, which 
was to have been her friendly help to let out life, should the 
potion not have worked, is not at hand — ^has not been buried 
with her. Where can she look for help ? Will her desperate 
hand have indeed to seek some kinsman's bone with which 
to dash out her brains ? No ! The " inconstant moon " is a 
friendly helper now ; it breaks through the darkness, and by 
its light she sees the shimmering of Borneo's dagger. Here is 
relief ! to die by the instrument which had touched his hand, 
had been part of hifl daily wearing and belongings-nothmg 

Juliet. 191 

could be more welcome. She snatched it from his belt, 
exclaiming, as she stabs herself, ''0 happy dagger! t^ is 
thy sheath; there rust, and let me die." 

Thus is the ''fearful passage of their death-mark'd love'' 
complete. Had Shakespeare only wished to show true love 
constant and triumphant throughout persistent evil fortune, 
he might have ended here. But, as I said in the outset, his 
purpose, I believe, was far wider and deeper, and is plainly 
shown in the elaborate close which he has written to the scene. 

The play opens in the thronged streets of Verona, — perhaps 
in its picturesque and stirring market-place, — ^where, upon a 
casual meeting, the hot blood of the retainers of the Monta- 
gues and Capulets, made hotter by the blazing noonday sun, 
breaks out into a bloody brawl, into the midst of which, when 
at its height, the heads of both the houses rush with a passion 
little suited to their years, and are reduced to order only by 
the intervention of their Prince. It closes in the chill mid- 
night, in a churchyard. The actors in the first scene are all 
present except the kind Lady Montague, who has died of 
grief that very night for her son's exile ; and there, locked in 
each other's arms in death, lie these two fair young creatures 
done to death by reason " of their parents' rage." 

Too late — ^too late for their happiness on earth — do these 

parents learn the lesson of amity and brotherly love over the 

dumbly eloquent bodies of their immolated children. But 

they do, with stricken hearts, learn it, and try vainly to make 

expiation. All future generations may also learn it there, for 

never could the lesson be more emphatically taught, as of a 

surety there 

" Never was a story of more woe, 

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." 

192 Shakespeare s Female Characters. 

Tbere is in tliis play no scope for surmise, no possible mis- 
understanding of the chief characters or of the poef s purpose, 
such as there are in Hamld and MaAeOu The chill mists 
and yapours of the North seem to shroud these plajs in an 
atmosphere of mystery, uncertainty, and gloom. But here 
all is distinct and luminous as the vivid sunshine, or the 
dear, tender moonlight of the SoutL Tou have but to throw 
your mind back into the histoiy of the time, and to let your 
heart warm and your imagination kindle with the hot blood 
and quick-flashing fancies of the Italian temperament, and 
the whole tale of love and woe stands fully revealed before 
you. Still, to judge Juliet rightly, we must have dear ideas 
of Bomeo, of her parents, and of all the circumstances that 
determined her conduct What I have written, therefore, 
has been written with this object Would I might think that 
in my art I was in some measure able to express what my 
imagination had conceived of Juliet in her brief hours of 
exquisite happiness and exquisite suffering ! 

To Mrs S. 0. Hall. 

[The second of these letters was not completed when tidings 
of the death, after a very brief illness, of the dear friend for 
whom it was intended, reached me. She was present to my 
mind when I wrote it, and I dedicate it to her memory. The 
world knew her great talents and her worth; but only her 
friends could estimate her goodness, her charity in thought as 
well as in deed. Her kindness, like her sympathy, knew no 
limit It was as constant and loyal, as it was encouraging 
and judidous. In loving grateful memory she lives, I doubt 
not, in many hearts, as she does in mine.] 






" AIm, poor prinoen, 
Thou divine Imogen t ' ' 

" 3o every spirit, u it ii moat pure, 
And h&th in it the more of heavinlj light, 
So it the fkirer body doth procure 
To habit in : 

For of the soule the bodie forme doth tike, 
For aoule is forme, knd doth the bodie miike; ' 

October 1862. 

i|OU wonder, I daresay, at my long delay in 

yielding to your urgent request that I Bhonld 

write of Imogen, — your chief favourite, as 

you tell me, among all Shakespeare's women. 

You would not wonder, could I make you 

feel bow, by long brooding over her character, and by living 

through all her emotions and trials oa the stage till she 

seemed to become " my very life of life," I find it next to 

1 96 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

impossible to put her so far away from me that I can look at 
her as a being to be scanned, and measured, and written about. 
All words — such, at least, as are at my conunand — seem in- 
adequate to express what I felt about her from my earliest 
years, not to speak of all that the experiences of my woman's 
heart and of human life have taught me since of the matchless 
truth and beauty with which Shakespeare has invested her. 
In drawing her he has made his masterpiece; and of all 
heroines of poetry or romance, who can be named beside her ? 
It has been my happy lot to impersonate not a few ideal 
women — among them two of your own Greek favourites, 
Antigone and Iphigenia in Aulis:^ but Imogen has always 
occupied the largest place in my heart; and while she 
taxed largely my powers of impersonation, she has always 
repaid me for the effort tenfold by the delight I felt at 
being the means of placing a being in every way so noble 
before the eyes and hearts of my audiences, and of making 
them feel, perhaps, and think of her, and of him to whose 
genius we owe her, with something of my own reverence 
and love. Ah, how much finer a medium than all the pen 
can do for bringing home to the heart what was in Shake- 
speare's mind, when he drew his men and women, is the 
" well-trod stage," with that living commentary which actor 
and actress capable in their art can give! How much has 

' What delight I had in acting theee plays in Dublin, and what intelligent 
and sympathetic audiences ! The Antigone gave me the greater pleasure, 
both for itself, and because of Mendelssohn's music The chorus was admir- 
able, and all the scenic adjuncts correct and complete. Although the whole 
performance occupied little more than an hour, great audiences fiUed the 
thoatre night after night It is strange how much more deeply these Greek 
plays moved the Irish heart than either the Scotch or the English. (See 
Appendix, p. 427.) 


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Imogen. 197 

he left to be filled up by accent, by play of feature, by bear- 
ing, by action, by subtle shades of expression, inspired by the 
heart and striking home to the heart, — by all those little 
movements and inflections of tone which come intuitively to 
the sympathetic artist, and which play so large a part in 
producing the impression left upon us by a living interpre- 
tation of the master-poet! To one accustomed like myself 
to such resources as these for bringing out the results of 
my studies of Shakespeare's women, it seems hopeless to 
endeavour to convey the same impressions by mere words. 
The more a character has wound itself round the heart, the 
more is this felt. Can you wonder, then, that I approach 
my "woman of women" with fear and trembling? 

Do you remember what that bright, charming, frank, old 
lady, — no, I will not call her " old," for there is nothing old 
about her ; I know many far older in spirit who count not 

half or a quarter her years, — Mrs D S said to me 

lately when you were standing by ? She had been scolding 
me in her playful way for not having given her more of my 
"letters" to read, and, after calling me idle, unkind, &c., 
asked me who was to be the subject of my next. I replied, 
I thought Imogen, but that I knew I should find it most 
difficult to express what I felt about her. " Ah, my dear ! " 
she exclaimed, throwing up her hands in her usual charac- 
teristic manner when she feels strongly, "you will never 
write of Imogen as you acted her!" I told her that her 
words filled me with despair. "Never mind," was her re- 
joinder ; " go on and try. My memory will fill up the gaps." 
I have one of the kind letters by me, which you wrote after 
seeing me act Imogen at Drury Lane in 1866. So ycwr 

198 Shakespeare s Female Cltaracters : 

memory too will have to come to my aid, by filling up the 
gaps. It is very pleasant to think that our friends' feeling 
may be shared by many of that unknown public who were 
always so ready to put themselves in sympathy with me; 
but that thought does not make the fulfilment of my promise 
to you the less formidable. 

Imogen had been one of the great favourites of my girl- 
hood. At school we used to read the scenes at the cave 
with Belarius, Arviragus, and Guiderius; and never can I 
forget our getting them up to act as a surprise for our 
governess on her birthday. We always prepared some " sur- 
prise " on this occasion, or what she kindly took as one. The 
brothers were arrayed in all the fur trimmings, boas, cuffis, 
muiSs, &c., we could muster,— one of the muiSs doing duty 
as the cap for Belarius. Then the practisings for something 
suggestive of the ^Eolian harp that has to play a Miserere 
for Imogen's supposed death ! Our only available means of 
simulating Belarius's "ingenious instrument" was a guitar; 
but the girl who played it had to be apart from the scene, 
and, as she never would take the right cue, she was always 
breaking in at the wrong place. I was the Imogen; and, 
curiously enough, it was as Imogen my dear governess first 
saw me on the stage. I wondered whether she remembered 
the incidents of our school-girl performance as I did. She 
might very weU forget, but not I; for what escapes our 
memory of things done or thought in childhood ? Such little 
matters then appear eventful, and loom so very large to 
young eyes and imaginations! 

I cannot quite remember who acted with me first in 
Cynibeline, but I can never forget Mr Macready's finding 

Imogen. 199 

fault with my page's dress, which I had ordered to be made 
with a tunic that descended to the ankles. On going to the 
theatre at the last rehearsal, he told me, with many apologies 
and much concern, that he had given directions to have my 
dress altered. He had taken the liberty of doing this, he 
said, without consulting me, because, although he could un- 
derstand the reasons which had weighed with me in ordering 
the dress to be made as I had done, he was sure I would for- 
give him when he explained to me that such a dress would 
not tell the story, and that one-half the audience — all, in 
fact, who did not know the play — would not discover that 
it was a disguise, but would suppose Imogen to be still in 
woman's attire. Bemonstrance was too late, and, with many 
tears, I had to yield, and to add my own terror to that of 
Imogen when first entering the cava I managed, however, 
to devise a kind of compromise, by swathing myself in the 
" franklin housewife's riding-cloak," which I kept about me 
as I went into the cave; and this I caused to be wrapped 
round me afterwards when the brothers carry in Imogen — ^the 
poor " dead bird, which they have made so much on." 

I remember well the Pisanio was my good friend Mr Elton, 
the best Pisanio of my time. No one whom I have since met 
has so truly thrown into the part the deep devotion, the 
respectful manly tenderness and delicacy of feeling, which it 
requires. He drew out all the nicer points of the character 
with the same fine and firm hand which we used to admire 
upon the French stage in M. Bonier, that most finished of 
artists, in characters of this kind. As I write, by some 
strange association of ideas — I suppose we must have been 
rehearsing Cynibeline at the time — a little circumstance 

200 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

illustrative of the character of this good Mr Elton comes into 
my mind. Pardon me if I leave Imogen for the moment, to 
dpeak of other matters. This helpful friend did not always 
cheer and praise, but very kindly told me of my mistakes. 
We were to appear in The Lady of LyonSy which was then 
in its first run, and had been commanded by the Queen for a 
State performance. I had never acted before Her Majesty 
and Prince Albert ; and to me, young as I was, this was a 
great event Inunediately I thought there ought to be some- 
thing special about my dress for the occasion. Now, either 
from a doubt as to the play's success, or for some good 
financial reason, no expense had been incurred in bringing 
it out. Mr Macready asked me if I had any dresses which 
could be adapted for Pauline Deschapelles. He could not, he 
said, afford to give me new dresses, and he would be glad if I 
could manage without them. Of course I said I would will- 
ingly do my best. Upon consulting with the excellent Mr 
Dominic Colnaghi, the printseller in Pall Mall, who always 
gave me access to all his books of costume, I found, as I had 
already heard, that the dress of the young girl of the period 
was simple in material and form — fine muslin, with lace 
fichusy ruffles, broad sashes, and the hair worn in long loose 
curls down the back, my own coming in naturally for this 
ftohion. As it was in my case, so I suppose it was with the 
others — ^the costumes, however, being all true to the period. 
The scenery was of course good and sufficient, for in this 
department Mr Macready never faliled. And thus, with trifling 
cost, this play, which was to prove so wonderfully success- 
ful, came forth to the world unassisted by aiiy extraneous 
acyuncts, depending solely upon its own merits a:nd the 

Imogen. 201 

actors' interpretation of it. It must have been written with 
rare knowledge of what the stage requires, for not one word 
was cut out nor one scene rearranged or altered after the first 
representation. The author was no doubt lucky in his inter- 
preters. Mr Macready, though in appearance far too old for 
Claude Melnotte, yet had a slight, elastic figure, and so much 

buoyancy of manner, that the impression of age quickly wore ! 

off. The secret of his success was, that he lifted the charaqter, 

and gave it the dignity and strength which it required to make 

Claude respected under circmnstances so equivocal. This 

wafiT especially conspicuous in a critical point early in the 

play (Act ii.), where Claude passes himself off as a prince^ 

Mr Macready's manner became his dress. The slight confu- ^ 

sion, when addressed by Colonel Damas in Italian, was so 

instantly turned to his own advantage by the playful way in 

which he laid the blame on the general's bad Italian, his 

whole bearing was so dignified and courteous, that it did not 

seem strange he should charm the girlish fancy of oiiie who 

was accustomed to be courted, but whose, heart was hitherto 

untouched. He made the hero, indeed, one of nature's 

exceptional gentlemen, and in this way prepossessed his 

audience, despite the unworthy device to which Claude l^oids 

himself in the first frenzy of wounded vanity. Truth to say, 

unless dealt, with poetically and romantically, both Claude 

and Pauline drop down into very commonplace people — • 

indeed I have been surprised to see how commonplace. 

Again, Mrs Clifford as Madame Deschapelles, by a stately 

aristocratic bearing, carried off the heartless foolishness of > 

her sayings. The Damas of Mr Bartley was a fine vigorous t 

impersonation of the blunt, impetuous, genial soldier. Mr | 



202 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Elton acted, as he always did, most carefully and well, and 
gav6 importance and style to the disagreeable character of 
M. Beauseant. 

But to return to the evening of the Boyal command. 
What I was going to say is this. I had nothing especially 
new and fresh to wear ; so in honour of the occasion I had 
ordered from Foster's some lovely pink roses with silver 
leaves, to trim my dress in the second act. I had hitherto 
worn only real roses — ^friends, known and unknown, always 
supplying me with them. One dear friend never failed to 
furnish Pauline with the bouquet for her hand. Oh, how 
very often, as she might tell you, did she see me in that 
play ! ^ I thought my new flowers, when arranged about my 
dress, looked lovely — quite fairy-like. When accosted with 
the usual "Good evenings" while waiting at the side scenes 
for the opening of the second act, I saw Mr Elton looking at 
me with a sort of amused wonder. I said at once, " Do you 
not think my fresh flowers pretty ? " " Oh," he said, " art they 
fresh ? They must have come a long way. Where do they 
grow? I never saw any of the kind before. They must 
have come out of Aladdin's garden. Silver leaves! How 
remarkable ! They may be more rare, but I much prefer the 
home-grown ones you have in your hand." Eidicule of my 
fine decoration! Alas! alas! I felt at once that it was 
deserved. It was too late to repair my error. I must act 
the scene with them — before the Queen, too! — and all my 

^ In my mind was always the idea that Pauline loved flowers passionately. 
It was in the garden, among his flowers, that Claude first saw and loved her. 
I never was without them in the play ; even in the sad last act, I had violets 
on my simple muslin dress. You remember how Madame Deschapelles re- 
proaches Pauline for not being en granAe tenuc on that ''joyful occasion." 

1 Like many pleasures long looked forward to, the whole of this evening 
a disappointment. The side scenes were crowded with visitorB, Mr Ma or ea d y 
having invited many friends. They were terribly in the way of the exits and 
entrances. Worse than all, those who knew you insisted on saluting you ; 
those who did not, made you run the gauntlet of a host of curious eyes, — and 
this in a place where, most properly, no stranger had hitherto been allowed to 
intrude. Then, too, though of course I never looked at the Queen and the 
Prince, still their presence was felt by me more than I could have anticipated. 
It overawed me somehow — stood between me and Pauline; and fn*t^*^ of 
doing my best, I could not in my usual way lose myself entirely in my 
character, so that, on the whole, I never acted worse or more artificially — ^too 
like my poor flowers ! 




Imogen. 203 

pleasure was gone. I hid them as well as I could with my 
fan and handkerchief, and hoped no one would notice them* 
Need I say how they were torn oflF when I reached my 
dressing-room, never to see the light again ? I never felt so \ 

ashamed and vexed with myself.^ ] 

It was well I had a handkerchief on this occasion to help \ 

to screen my poor silver leaves ; but as a general rule I kept 

it, when playing Pauline, in my pocket — and for this reason : \ 

In the scene in the third act — where Pauline learns the 
infamous stratagem of which she is the victim — on the night 
the play was first acted I tore my handkerchief right acroes 
without knowing that I had done so ; and in the passion and 
emotion of the scene it became a streamer, and waved about as 
I moved and walked. Surely any one might have seen that 
this was an accident, the involuntary act of the maddened 
girl ; but in a criticism on the play — I suppose the day after^ 
but as I was never allowed to have my mind disturbed by 
theatrical criticisms, I cannot feel sure — I was accused of 
having arranged this as a trick in order to produce an effect 
So innocent was I of a device which would have been utterly 
at variance with the spirit ia which I looked at my art, that 
when my dear home master and friend asked me if I had 

204 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

torn a handkerchief in the scene, I laughed and said, " Tes ; 
my dresser at the end of the play had shown me one in 
ribbons." " I would not," was his remark, " have you carry one 
again in the scene, if you can do without it ;" and I did not 
usually do so. It was some time afterwards before I learned 
his reason, and I then continued to keep my handkerchief 
6at of my reach, lest the same accident should happen again ; 
for, as I always allowed the full feeling of the scene to take 
possession of me, I could not answer but that it might. 
There would have been nothing wrong in acting upon what 
strong natural emotion had suggested in the heat of actual 
performance ; but all true artists will, I believe, avoid the use 
of any action, however striking, which may become by repeti- 
tion a mere mechanical artifice. 

It was different with another suggestion which was made 
^ me as to the way I acted in the same scene. As I recalled 
to Claude, in bitter scorn, his glowing description of his palace 
by the Lake of Como, I broke into a paroxysm of hysterical 
laughter, which came upon me, I suppose, as the natural 
relief from the intensity of the mingled feelings of anger, 
Scorn, wounded pride, and outraged love, by which I found 
tnyself carried away. The effect upon the audience was 
electrical because the impulse was genuine. But well do I 
remember Mr Macready's remonstrance with me for yielding 
to it. It was too daring, he said ; to have failed in it might 
have ruined the scene (which was true). No one, moreover, 
should ever, he said, hazard an unrehearsed effect. I could 
pnly answer that I could not help it ; that this seemed the 
only way for my feelings to find vent; and if the impulse 
seized me again, again, I feared, I must act the scene in the 
same way. And often as I have played Pauline, never did 

Imogen. 205 

the scene fail to bring back the same burst of hysterical 
emotion ; nor, so &r as I know, did any of my critics regard 
my yielding to it as out of place, or otherwise than true to 
nature. Some time afterwards I was comforted by reading a 
reply of the great French actor Baron, when he was blamed 
for raising his hands above his head in some impassioned 
scene, on the ground that such a gesture was contrary to 
the rules of art " Tell me not of art," he said. " If na- 
ture makes you raise your hands, be it ever so high, be sure 
nature is right, and the business of art is to obey her." 
When playing with Mr Macready the following year at 
the Haymarket, I noticed a chair placed every evening at 
the wing as I went on the stage for this scene. On inquiry, 
I found it was for Mrs Glover, the great actress of comedy, 
who afterwards told me that she came every night to see 
me in this scene, she was so much struck by the original- 
ity of my treatment of it. She said it was bold beyond 
anything she had ever known; and yet it was always so 
fresh and new, that each time it moved her as if she had 
not seen it before. Nature spoke through me to her — ^no 
praise to me. 

The success of Tht Lady of Lyons had during the 
rehearsals been considered very doubtful. Its defects in a 
literary point of view seemed obvious to those who were 
capable of judging, and its merits as a piece of skilful dramatic 
construction could not then be fully seen. The master and 
friend of my youth, of whom I spoke in my letter on Juliet, 
thought my part of Pauline very difficult and somewhat dis- 
agreeable. I remember well his saying to me, "You have 
hitherto, in your Shakespearian studies, had to lift yourself up 
to the level of your heroines; now you must, by tone and 

2o6 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

maimer and dignity of expression, lift this one up to yourself." 
Daring the rehearsals no one knew who was the author. The 
play had not a name given to it until veiy near the time 
it was brought out. There was great speculation at the 
rehearsals as to what it was to be called. Lwe and Duty, 
Love and Pride, were suggested, but discarded as too like 
the titles of a noyel. ?%« Oardener^s Son, said one. No, 
that suggested nothing. The Merchant of Lyons, said 
another. No, surely not; was there not a Merch/mt of 
Venice t Upon which Mr Bartley, who was the stage 
manager, and also the first and the best Colonel Damas, 
turned to me, and taking off his hat, and bowing in the 
soldier-like manner of the colonel in the play, said, '' I think 
'my young cousin' should give the play a name. Shall it 
not be called The Lady of Lyons?" Whether this name 
had been decided on before, I cannot tell ; but shortly after 
the play was announced by that title.^ 

During the run of this play — ^it was in winter — I suffered 
terribly from a constant cough. It would sometimes seize 
me in the most trying passages. On one of these occasions I 
found Lord Lytton waiting for me as I left the scene, showing 
the greatest concern, and begging me to take care of my health. 
Shortly after, he sent some lozenges to my dressing-room, with 
renewed injunctions to give up acting for a time. As this 
involved the withdrawal of the play at the height of its 
success, I felt how generous was this proposal. Indeed I 
always found Lord Lytton most kind and considerate, with 
a veiy tender heart for suffering. Not long afterwards, my 
physicians sent me away from my loved work for many weary 

^ See Appendix, p. 429. 

Imogen. 207 

months : but rest had become quite necessaiy ; had they not 
insisted upon it, no more work or play would there have been 
for me in this world. 
But, oh how I have wandered from Imogen ! It is, I 

suppose, like Portia, — 

"Topeue the time, 
To eke it and to draw it out in length," — 

to stay myself from grappling with a task which I yearn yet 
dread to approach. 

It is impossible, I find, to write of Imogen, without treating 
in some degree of all the principal characters of the play. 
She acts upon and influences them alL We must make 
ourselves familiar with them, in order fully to know her. 
This opens up a wide field ; for the action of the play covers 
an unusual space, and is carried on by many important agents. 
It sets the unities, especially the unity of place, entirely at 
defiance. We are now in Britain, then in Bome — anon once 
more in Britain, then back in Bome. The scene changes, and 
we are again at Cymbeline's Court; then in a mountainous 
r^on of South Wales; and so backwards and forwards to 
the end of the play. CymbdvM would be the despair of 
those getters-up of plays nowadays, whose scenery is so 
elaborate that they can give but one scene to each act But, 
oh how refreshing to have your thoughts centred upon such 
human beings as Shakespeare drew, with all their joys, their 
woes, their affections, sufferings, passions, unfolding before 
you each phase of their characters, instead of the immovable 
upholstery and painted simulations of reality in which the 
modem fashion takes delight! The eye perhaps is pleased, 
but what becomes of the heart and the imagination ? People 

2o8 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

tell us that Siakespeaie would, if he could, have availed him- 
aelf of an the matoial resooroes of the costomier, soene- 
painter, and stage-manager, whidi are now so freely used. I 
yeotoie to think not. He knew too well that if the eye be 
distracted by excess either of numbers or of movement, or by 
a multiplicity of beautiful or picturesque objects, the actor 
miist*work at a disadvantage. He can neither gain nor keep 
that grasp of the minds and sympathies of the audience 
which is essential for bringing home to them the purpose 
of the poet. 

I have heard the plot^ of Cymbdine severely censured. 
The play certainly wants the concentration which is supposed 
to be necessary for representation on the staga It is not 
marked by the exquisite constructive skill which is apparent 
in Mad)dh, Borneo and Juliet, Much Ado about Nothing, and 
some of Shakespeare's other plays. Still the plot itself is clear 
enough, and sufficiently full of sustained interest to engage 
the attention of the audience and keep it in suspense to the 
dose. The play, in fact, is of only too luxuriant growth, so 
that a little judicious lopping improves its form without pre- 
judice to it as an acting drama. Its occasional difiEuseness is 
plainly caused by an extreme anxiety to leave nothing ob- 
scure either in the action or the characters. But the genius 
of the great dramatist is apparent in the skill with which 
the story of Imogen's trials is interwoven with traditionary 
tales of the ancient Britons and their relations to Borne, 
which give to it the vivid interest of a grand historical 
background. The incident on which the play hinges — ^the 
wager between lachimo and Posthumus — appears to have been 
taken from Boccaccio's story, simply because it was familiar 

Imogen. 209 

to the theatre-going public, and because Shakespeare saw in 
it a great opportunity for introducing characters and incidents 
well fitted to develop, in a manner " unattempted yet in prose 
or rhyme," the character of a noble, cultivated, loving woman 
and wife at her best. The play might indeed be fitly called 
Imogen, Princess of Britain, for it is upon her, her trials and 
her triumph, that it turns. 

Observe how carefully Shakespeare fixes our attention upon 
her at the very outset of the play, by the conversation of the 
two courtiers. " You do not meet a man but frowns," says 
one ; for the king is angry, and from him all the Court takes its 
tone. To the question, " But what's the matter ? " he replic 

" His daughter, and the heir of his kingdom, whom 
He parpoeed to his wife's sole son (a widow 
That late he married), hath referred herself 
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman. She's wedded ; 
Her husband banish'd ; she imprison*d : all 
Is oatward sorrow ; though I think the king 
Be touched at very heart. 

2d Gent, None but the king 1 

Ist Oeni. He that hath lost her, too : so is the queen, 
That most desired the match : but not a courtier, 
Although they wear their faces to the bent 
Of the king's looks, but hath a heart that is not 
Glad at the thing they scowl at. 

2(2 GenJt, And why so ? 

\gt Oeni. He that hath miss'd the princess is a thing 
Too bad for bad report ; and he that hath her — 
I mean, that married her, — alack, good man ! 
And therefore banish'd — is a creature such 
As, to seek through the regions of the earth 
For one his like, there would be something failing 
In him that should compare. I do not think 
So fair an outward, and such stuff within. 
Endows a man but he." 

2IO Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

The speaker has much more to say in praise of Posthumus 
Leonatus ; but the climax of his panegyric is, that the best 
proof of the worth of Posthmnus lies in the fact that such 
a woman as Imogen has chosen him for her husband : — 

" His mistresB, — 
For whom he now Ib banish'd, — ^her own price 
Proclaims how she esteem'd hiuL and his virtue ; 
By her election may be truly read 
What kind of man he is/' 

Thus, then, we see that Imogen is fitly mated. There has 
been that "marriage of true minds" on which Shakespeare 
lays so much stress in one of his finest sonnets (the 116th). 
Both are noble creatures, rich in the endowments of body 
as well as mind, and drawn towards each other as 

" Like to like, but like in difference. 
Distinct in individualities, 
But like each other even as those who love.*' 

What Shakespeare intends us to see in Imogen is made 
plain by the impression she is described as producing on all 
who come into contact with her, — strangers, as well as those 
who have seen her grow up at her father's Court She is of 
royal nature as well as of royal blood, — ^too noble to know 
that she is noble. A grand and patient faithfulness is at the 
root of her character. Yet she can be angry, vehement, 
passionate, upon occasion. With a being of so fine and sensi- 
tive an organisation, how could it be otherwise ? Her soul's 
strength and nobleness, speaking through her form and move- 
ments, impress all alike with an irresistible charm. Her fine 
taste, her delicate ways, her accomplishments, her sweet sing- 
ing, are brought before us by countless subtle touches. To 

Imogen. 2 1 1 

her belongs especially the quality of grace, — that quality 
which, in Goethe's words, "macht unwiderstehlich,"* and 
which, as Sacine says, is even " superior to beauty, or rather 
is beauty sweetly animated." lachimo, fastidious and cloyed 
in sensuality as he is, no sooner sees her than he is struck 
with admiring awe :— 

** All of her that is out of door most rich ! 
If she be fdmlBh'd with a mind so rare, 
She IB alone the Arabian bird." 

And even Cloten, whose dull brain cannot resist the impres- 
sion of her queenly grace and beauty, grows eloquent when 

he speaks of her : — 

" She's fair and royal, 
And hath all courtly parts more exquisite 
Than lady, ladies, woman ; from every one 
The best she hath, and she, of all compounded, 
Outsells them all.'' 

Like many of Shakespeare's heroines, Imogen has early 
lost her mother ; but she has been most lovingly and royally 
nurtured by her father, to whom, no doubt, she was doubly 
endeared after the loss of his two sons. What she was ta him, 
we see when his hour of trouble comes, and he is left without 
her. " Imogen, the great part of my comfort, gone ! " (Act iv. 
sc. 3.) Her fine intellect and strong affection would then 
have been the stay to him it had often been in the days be- 
fore he allowed his love for her to be overclouded by the fas- 

' '* Die Schonheit bleibt sich lelber selig, 
Die Anmuth maoht unwidentehUch." 

Beauty self -pleased, self -wrapt, wiU sit, 
But grace draws aU men after it 

—PauH^ Part II. 

212 Shakespeare s Female C/iaracters : 

cinations of his beautiful and crafty second queen. Yet not 
even she could keep him from being " touched at very heart," 
despite his anger at his child for wedding Posthumus. 

With what skill the characters of that queen and of Cym- 
beline himself are put before us ! He is full of good impulses, 
but weak, wayward, passionate, and, as such natures commonly 
are when thwarted, cruel, and carried away, like Lear, by 
''impatient womanish violence." Having no insight into 
character, he has been led by designing flatterers, who played 
upon his weakness, to suspect "the perfect honour" of his 
tried friend and officer Belarius, and to banish him from the 
Court. The loss of his two sons, stolen from him by Belarius 
in revenge for tliis wrong, has embittered his life. It pro- 
bably cost him that of their mother, whose death left the 
Princess Imogen, her youngest-bom, as his only solace. Out 
of the nobler impulse of his nature came the care and training 
which he gave to Posthumus, the orphaned son of his great 
general, Sicilius Leonatus. And yet — after treating him as 
if he were one of the sons whom he had lost, breeding him 
along with Imogen as her " playfellow," and knowing, as he 
could not fail to know, the deep affection that must spring 
from such an intimacy — on finding out the marriage, he sends 
him from the Court with violence and in disgrace, careless 
of the misery which, by so doing, he inflicts on his own child. 
Left to himself, things might have taken a very different 
course. But he is blinded for the time by the spell which 
his newly wedded, beautiful, soft-voiced, dissembling queen 
has cast upon him. At her instigation he resents the 
marriage with a bitterness the more intense because it is 
in some measure artificial, and gives vent to his anger 

Imogen. 213 

against Postliumus in an undignified manner, and in un- 
kingly phrases: — 

*' Thou basest thing, avoid ! Hence from my sight ! 
• ••••• Away ! 

Thou'rt poison to my blood ! " 

In the same passionate manner he heaps maledictions on his 
daughter. " thou vile one ! " 

*' Nay, let her languish 
A drop of blood a day, and, being aged. 
Die of this folly ! ^ 

Choleric and irrational as old Capulet himself, Cymbeline is 
equally regardless of everybody's feelings but his own. Just 
the man, therefore, to become the plastic tool of a cold, beauti- 
ful, unscrupulous, ambitious woman like his queen. She, again, 
has but one soft place in her heart, and that is filled by her 
handsome peacock -witted son Cloten — a lout so vapid and 
brainless that he cannot "take two from twenty and leave 
eighteen." For him this fawning, dissembling, crafty woman 
— this secret poisoner, in intention, if not in deed — is pre- 
pared to dare everything. If she cannot secure Imogen for 
her son, and so prepare his way to the throne, she is quite 
ready to "catch the nearest way" by compassing Imogen's 
death. Cymbeline, infatuated by an old man's love for a 
handsome woman, is a child in her hands. Imogen's keen 
intelligence sees through her pretended sympathy, dismissing 
it vdth the words — 

" Oh dissembling courtesy ! How fine this tyrant 
Can tickle where she wounds ! "- 

knowing well that she will have less cause to dread "the 

2 1 6 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

words so coarsely insulting that, as he goes, Imogen 

exclaims — 

'^ There cannot be a pinch in death 
More sharp than this is." 

And now, when her father turns his reproaches upon her, we 
see in her replies the loving, dutiful daughter, the still more 
loving and devoted wife : — 

" I beseech you, sir. 
Harm not yourself with your vexation ; I 
Am senseless of your wrath ; a touch more rare 
Subdues all pangs, all fears. 

• « • . • • . 

Cym, Thou mightst have had the sole son of my queen ! 

Imo, blest, that I might not ! . . . 

Oym, Thou took'st a beggar ; wouldst have made my throne 
A seat for baseness ! 

Imo. No ; I rather added 

A lustre to it 

Cym. thou vile one I 

Imo, Sir, 

It is your fault that I have loved Posthumus : 
You bred him as my playfellow ; and he is 
A man worth any woman, overbuys me 
Almost the sum he pays. 

Oym, What, art thou mad ? 

Im4). Almost, sir : heaven restore me ! Would I were 
A neat-herd's daughter, and my Leonatus 
Our neighbour shepherd's son ! " 

A cry, we may well believe, that has often risen in palaces 
from hearts weary of the irksome restraints, or awed by the 
great responsibilities, of princely life. 

Her father leaves her, with the order to his queen, " Away 
with her, and pen her up!" and Pisanio returns with the tidings 
that Clot^had drawn his sword upon his master Posthumus. 

Imogen. 217 

Imogen's contempt for Cloten breaks out despite his mother's 

presence : — 

" Your son's my father's friend ; he takes his part. 
To draw upon an exile ! brave sir ! 
I would they were in Afric both together ; 
Myself by with a needle^ that I might prick 
The goer-back." 

Posthnmus, assured that in Pisanio Imogen would have at 
least one loyal friend who might be counted on to stand firmly 
by her, has sent him back, refusing to allow him to be absent 
from her even for so brief a time as was necessary to reach 
the haven. But now Imogen desires him to return to " see 
her lord aboard." Why she did so, we learn in their dialogue 
when he returns : — 

'' /mo. What was the last 

That he spake to thee ? 

Pif. It was, ' His queen ! his queen ! ' 

Itm, Then waved his handkerchief? 

Pu. And kiss'd it, madam. 

IvM>, Senseless linen I Happier therein than I ! 
And that was all ? 

Fin, No, madam ; for so long 

As he could make me with this eye or ear 
Distinguish him from others, he did keep 
The deck, with glove or hat or handkerchief 
Still waving, as the fits and stirs of his mind 
Could best express how slow his soul sail'd on, 
How swift his ship. 

/mo. Thou shouldst have made him 

As little as a crow, or less, ere left 
To after-eye him. 

Fit. Madam, so I did. 

IfM. I would have broke mine eye-strings, crack'd them, but 
To look upon him ; till the diminution 
Of space had pointed him sharp as my needle ; 

2 1 8 Shakespeare s Female Cliaracters : 

Nay, folloik-'d him, till he had melted from 

The smallnefls of a gnat to air ; and then 

Have tom'd mine eye and wept But, good Piaanio, 

When shall we hear from him ? 

Pit. Be awored, madam, 

With his next vantage. 

Jfik). I did not take my leave of him, hut had 
Most pretty things to say : ere I could tell him 
How I would think on him, at certain hours. 
Such thoughts and such ; or I could make him swear 
The shes of Italy should not betray 
Mine interest and his honour ; or have charged him 
At the sixth hour of mom, at noon, at midnight. 
To encounter me with orisons, for then 
I am in heaven for him ; or ere I could 
Give him that parting kiss which I had set 
Betwixt two charming words, comes in my father, 
And, like the tyrannous breathing of the north. 
Shakes all our buds from growing." 

Imogen can pour out her heart in these exquisite bursts 
of tenderness before Pisanio without reserve, because she is 
assured of his sympathy, and of his devotion to her lord as 
well as to herself. I have always thought that Pisanio had 
been a follower of Posthumus's father, Sicilius Leonatus, and 
had been assigned, therefore, to his son as a special servant by 
Gymbeline when he first took the orphaned boy under his 
care, and made him the playfellow of Imogen. He had seen 
Posthumus grow up with all the winning graces of a fine 
person, and a simple, truthful, manly nature, so void of guile 
himself as to be unsuspicious of it in others; while Imogen 
had developed into the beautiful, accomplished, high-souled 
woman, for whom mere " princely suitors " — and, we are told, 
she had many — ^had no attraction, companioned as she had 
been from childhood to womanhood by one whose high 

Imogen. 219 

and winning qualities she knew so well Pisanio had 
seen them grow dearer and dearer to each other, and never 
doubted that Cymbeline looked with favour on their growing 
affection until the evil hour when he re-married, and was per- 
suaded by his queen to favour Cloten's suit The character 
of that coarse, arrogant, cowardly braggadocio must have 
made his pretensions to the hand of Imogen odious to the 
whole Court that loved and honoured her, but especially to 
Pisanio; and we may be sure he was taken into counsel, 
when a marriage was resolved upon, as the only way to 
make the union with Cloten impossible. Thus he has drawn 
upon himself the suspicion and hatred of the queen and her 
handsome, well-proportioned, brainless son. I say well-pro- 
portioned ; for how otherwise could Imogen have afterwards 
mistaken his headless body, as she does (Act iv. sc. 2), for 
that of Posthumus? 

These opening scenes, in which Imogen appears, are a proof 
among many others, how much Shakespeare expected from 
the personators of his heroines. In them the actress must 
contrive to produce the impression of a character of which 
all that is afterwards seen of Imogen is the natural develop- 
ment. In look, in bearing, in tone and accent, we must see 
the princess, strong in the possession of fine and cultivated 
intelligence, and equal, through all her womanly tenderness 
and by very reason of that tenderness, to any strain which 
may be put upon her fortitude and endurance,— one who, 
while she draws on all insensibly to admire her by her mere 
presence, at the same time inspires them with a reverent 
devotion. Ah! how little those who, in mere ignorance, 
speak slightingly of the actor's art, can know of the mental 

220 Shakespeare 5 Female Characters : 

and moral training which is needed to take home into the 
being, and then to express in action, however faintly, what 
must have been in the poet's mind, as his vision of Imogen 
found expression in the language he has put into her mouth ! 

And now we must leave Imogen, and follow Posthumus 
to Bome, where he is expected at a banquet at his friend 
Philario's house. Before he enters (Act i. sc. 5) we see that, 
except by his host, his presence is not desired. His reputa- 
tion as no ordinary man has run before him ; and the French 
and Soman guests already carp at and depreciate him. 
When he enters, his self-possession and dignified courtesy 
show in marked contrast to the disposition seen in the others 
to irritate and ofifend him. lachimo has an old grudge 
against him. He had seen him before in Britain, and the 
antagonism between his own corrupt and selfish nature and 
the noble qualities of Posthumus had bred mutual dislike. 
The Italian's flippancy and loose vein of expression are 
rebuked by the calm reticence of the Briton. This reserve 
is made greater by the deep sorrow that is tugging at his 
heart. By what now seems to him his selfishness in pressing 
Imogen to a private marriage, he has brought not only dis- 
grace and contumely upon himself, but suffering and sorrow 
on her whom his love would yearn to shelter from any touch 
of pain. Remorse, love, and pride are thus at war within 
him. Angry with himself, he is impatient of annoyance or 
opposition. In this mood, on reaching his friend's house, he 
encounters in lachimo a man who would have been distasteful 
to him under any circumstances. Nothing could be more im- 
lucky. In his present state of mind he is fit company for no 

Imogen. 221 

stranger, least of all for this mocking, supercilious Italian, with 
his ostentatious disbelief in woman's worth, and his arrogant, 
sarcastic nature, indolent yet cunning, and only moved to 
action by the desire to gratify his vanity or his senses. 
Iachimo'8 very manner, with its assured complacency, irritates 
and frets the heart-stricken Briton. Had he not been at war 
with himself, I believe he would not have allowed any con- 
versation, in which his mistress's name should be mentioned, 
to be carried on in his presence. But, smarting as he is 
under Cymbeline's insulting language, with the echo of it still 
ringing in his ears, he is unable to retain his usual self- 
command. He is moved in time to give taimt for taunt, 
boast for boast ; and when this insolent unmannerly stranger 
dares to bring the constancy and honour of his mistress into 
(question, he is provoked into accepting the challenge which 
lachimo proposes as a test of her virtue, without thinking for 
the moment of the insult implied by the mere introduction of 
such a man to the presence of his wife. 

We now go back to Imogen. Weeks have obviously gone 
by ; but we hear that " she weeps still." The persecution of 
a " father cruel, and a step-dame false," and the importunities 
of " a foolish suitor," serve but to make her cling closer to the 
thought of her dear lord and husband. 

'* Oh, that huflband, 
My supreme crown of grief ! . . . 
Had 1 been thief-stolen, 

As my two brothers, happy ! but most miserable 
Is the desire thaVs glorious." 

She is in tliis mood when Pisanio introduces " a noble gen- 
tleman of Rome," who brings letters from her lord. The 

222 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

mere mention of them sends all the colour from her face, 
lachimo noticing this, reassures her: — 

<< Change you, madam ? 
The worthy Leonatus is in safety. 
And greets your highness dearly." 

Now returns the delicate colour to her cheek, the warmth to 
her heart, and she can say with all her accustomed grace, 
" Thanks, good sir. You are kindly welcome." This is her 
first letter from her wedded lord ; and while she is drinking 
in its words of love, lachimo is watching her with all his 
eyes. The happiness in hers, lately so full of tears, adds to 
her fascination, and her whole demeanour expresses, silently 
but eloquently, the purity and beauty of her souL lachimo, 
imbeliever as he is in woman's worth, is too shrewd not to 
see that the charm of her face and person — ^" all of her that is 
out of door most rich ! " — would not be so exquisite but for 
the dignity and elevation of her mind. His wager, he feels 
instinctively, is as good as lost ; but the stake is too serious 
not to be played for, at all risks. 

"Boldness, audacity," must arm him "from head to foot," 
aided by all the craft and subtlety of a spirit long versed in 
guile. No matter at what sacrifice of truth, or at what cost 
of misery to his victims, the wager must be won. He already 
feels it will not be gained by triumph over Imogen's virtue ; 
but means must be found to wreak his hate upon the haughty, 
self-reliant Briton, and to bring down his pride, by convincing 
him of her disloyalty. 

He begins his advances in the way common to common 
minds, by daring to praise and seeming to be lost in admira- 
tion of Imogen's beauty. But here he is entirely thwarted. 

Imogen, 223 

for she fails to see his meaning, and asks, in all simplicity, 
•* What, dear sir, thus wraps you ? Are you well ? " Having 
the sense at once to see that he is upon a wrong tack, he starts 
upon another, in hopes of better success. In reply to her 
anxious inquiry after the health of her lord, he assures her 
that he is not only well, but 

" Exceeding pleasant ; none a stranger there 
So merry and so gamesome : he is call'd 
The Briton reveller." 

A report so little in consonance with all she has known 
of Posthumus at once arrests Imogen's attention. lachimo, 
thinking he has gained a point, and that he may pique 
her pride, proceeds to illustrate the small respect in which 
her husband holds her sex, by telling her of a "French- 
man, his companion," over whose sighs for " a Ghdlian girl at 
home " Posthumus makes merry : — 

" The jolly Briton 
(Your lord, I mean) laughs from's free lungs, cries * Oh ! 
Can my sides hold, to think that man, who knows 
By history, report, or his own proof, 
What woman is, — ^yea, what she cannot choose 
But must be, — will his free hours languish for 
Assured bondage \ ' " 

Imogeu, amazed, can only say, " Will my lord say so ? " But 
this levity on the part of her lord must be pushed home to 
herself. Accordingly, lachimo goes on to express wonder 

and pity: — 


" Imo, What do you pity, sir % 

IcuJi. Two creatures, heartily. 

Imo, Am I one, sir ? 

You look on me : what wreck discern you in me 
Deserves your pity V* 

224 Shakespeare s Female Cfiaracters : 

He still speaks so enigmatically, that she conjures him to say 

plainly what he means : — 

" You do seem to know 
Something of me, or what concerns me. Pray you 
(Since doubting things go ill often hurts more 
Than to be sure they do), . . . discover to me 
What both you spur and stop." 

Upon this, he speaks so plainly, and with such indignation, of 
her lord's disloyalty, that for a moment a cloud rests upon her 
mind. With a sad dignity she says — 

" /wo. My lord, I fear, 

Has forgot Britain. 

Ifk^ And himself. Not I, 

Inclined to this intelligence, pronounce 
The beggary of his change ; but 'tis your graces 
That from my mutest conscience to my tongue 
Charms this report out" 

He is now striking into a vein which reveals a something in 
the speaker from which, as a pure woman, she instinctively 
recoils, and she exclaims, '' Let me hear no more ! '' lachimo, 
mistaking for woimded pride the shock to her love, and to all 
the cherished convictions of the worth of Posthumus on which 
it rests, urges her to be revenged upon him. How beautiful 
is her reply ! For a wrong like this there is no remedy, no 
revenge. It is too monstrous even for belief : — 

" Revenged ! 
How should I be revenged ? If this be true- 
As I have such a heart, that both mine ears « 
Must not in haste abuse — if it be true, 
How shall I be revenged ? " 

Imogen, who has throughout felt an instinctive dislike to the 
free-spoken Soman, — this bringer of ill tidings, — when he 

Imogen. 225 

now dares to tender love and devotion to herself, on the 

instant reads him through and through. She calls at once for 

Pisanio to eject him from her presence, but the wily Italian 

has taken care not to have her loyal retainer within hearing. 

Quite early in the scene he has sent him out of the way by 

the words — 

" Beseech you, sir, desire 
My man's abode where I did leave him : he 
Is strange and peevish." 

Pisanio does not, therefore, answer to his mistress's call, and 
lachimo continues his advances. Her instinct, then, was 
right. The cloud vanishes that for a moment has rested upon 
her mind; and instead of the doubting, perplexed woman, 
wounded in her most sacred belief, we see the indignant 
princess sweeping from her presence in measureless scorn the 
man whose every word she feels to be an insult : — 

^ Away ! I do condemn mine ears that have 
So long attended thee. If thon wert honourable, 
Thou wooldst have told this tale for virtue, not 
For such an end thou seek^st ; as base as strange. 
Thon wrongest a gentleman, who is as far 
From thy report as thou from honour ; and 
Solicit'st here a lady, that disdains 
Thee and the devil alike. — ^What ho ! Pisanio ! ^ 

At this point the address of the wily, subtle Italian comes to 
his rescue. The vulnerable point in Imogen, he sees, is her 
devotion to her lord, and lachimo immediately breaks out 
into his praises, and excuses all which he has before said by 
the plea that his object was to prove if Imogen was indeed 
worthy of " the worthiest sir that ever country called his : " — 


226 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

" Give me your pardon. 
I have spoke this, to know if your affiance 
Were deeply rooted ; and shall make your lord 
That which he is new o'er. And he is one, 
The truest mannered ; such a holy witch, 
That he enchants societies unto him : 
Half all men's hearts are his.*' 

Forgetting her own wrong in the delight of hearing this 
tribute paid to the worth of that dear lord whose name has 
of late been only coupled in her hearing with insulting and 
contumelious epithets, Imogen murmurs half aloud, "You 
make amends." lachimo, seeing his advantage, pursues it : — 

" He sits 'mongst men like a descended god : 
He hath a kind of honour sets him off. 
More than a mortal seeming. . . . 

The love I bear him 

Made me to fan you thus ; hut the gods made you, 
Unlike all others, chaffless. Pray, your pardon ! " 

This praise of Posthumus, now so rare at Cymbeline's Court, 
together with lachimo's vehement protestations of regard for 
him, completely deceives Imogen, and she replies, " All's well, 
sir. Take my power in the Court for yours." His " humble 
thanks " are tendered, and his audience ended. As he retires, 
however, he turns back, and in the most seemingly simple 
manner asks for the aid she has proffered, to help him in the 
safe keeping of the costly plate and jewels which he had pur- 
chased in France, as a present to the Emperor from " some 
dozen Eomans of us and your lord, the best feather of our 
wing." It is enough for her that Posthumus has an interest 
in their " safe stowage : " — 

" Since 
My lord hath interest in them, I will keep them, 
In my hed-chamher." 

Imogen. 227 

How lachimo's heart must have bounded at these words! 
Things fashion themselves for him to a wish, and make easy 
the way, which before had seemed beset with insurmountable 
difficulties. The generous forgiveness of the princess, and her 
pleasure in showing courtesy to him who had professed so 
much regard for her lord, thus become the ministers to his 
vile purpose and her own misery. 

We next see Imogen in her bed, reading. How rich were 
the appointments of her chamber, we gather afterwards from 
lachimo's description (Act ii. sc. 4). It was hung 

" With tapestry of silk and silver ; the story, 
Proud Cleopatra when she met her Roman. . . . 

A piece of work 

So bravely done, so rich, that it did strive 
In workmanship and value. . . . 

The chimney-piece 

Chaste Dian bathing : never saw I figures 
So likely to report themselves. . . . 

The roof o' the chamber 
With golden cherubins is fretted." 

And from such luxury, such surroundings, which have been 
with her all her life, the treachery of this ignoble, crafty, 
selfish villain, lying on the watch there in his trunk, was 
shortly to cast her forth into an unknown world, in misery, 
in pain and weariness of body, with only the ground for her 

Imogen has been reading for three hours — a weary time 
for the hidden " Italian fiend " ! On hearing it is midnight, 
she dismisses her woman Helen, telling her to "fold down 
the leaf where she had left." This, we hear from lachimo 
afterwards, was the Tale of Tereus, "where Philomel gave 

228 Shakespeare's Female CItaracters : 

up," — ^that is, we may suppose, at the point where Philomela 
and her sister Procne were (in answer to their prayer to 
escape Tereus, their infuriated pursuer) transformed, the one 
into a nightingale, the other into a swallow. She adds — 

^ Take not away the taper, leave it burning ; 
And if thou canst awake by four o' the clock, 
I prithee, call me. Sleep hath seized me wholly." 

She kisses fondly the bracelet on her arm, her Leonatus's 
parting gift, and with a brief prayer to the gods for protec- 
tion " from fairies and the tempters of the night," drops into 
that deep sleep which enables lachimo to accomplish his 
purpose unheard, unseen. Libertine and sceptic as he is, he 
is awed by the exquisite beauty and chastity of the sleeper : — 

" Cytherea, 
How bravely thou becom'st thy bed ! Fresh Hly ! 
And whiter than the sheets ! That I might touch ! 
But kiss ; one kiss ! Rubies unparagon'd. 
How dearly they do't ! Tis her breathing that 
Perfumes the chamber thus. The flame o' the taper 
Bows toward her, and would under-peep her Hds, 
To see the enclosed lights, now canopied 
Under these windows, white and azure, laced 
With blue of heaven's own tinct." 

What a picture is here! Drawn by a master-hand; for 
l€kchimo has all the subtle perception of the refined sen- 
sualist. "That I might touch!" But even he, struck into 
reverence, dare not. "A thousand liveried angels wait on 
her," so that his approach is Imrred. With all despatch he 
notes the features and furniture of the room. "Sleep, the 
ape of death, lies dull upon her," and this emboldens him 
to steal the bracelet from her arm. While he is triumphing 

Imogen. 229 

in the thought how this may be used to work " the madding 
of her lord," his eye is caught by a mark he has espied upon 
her bosom, which "rivets, screws itself to his memory," as 
a conclusive voucher with Posthumus that he has " ta'en the 
treasure of her honour : " — 

*' On her left breast 
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops 
I' the bottom of a cowslip." 

What need of further token! Those of which he is now 
possessed, he is satisfied, will be ample to carry conviction 
to a man of pure heart like Posthumus, who could not con- 
ceive of baseness so vile as that by which lachimo has come 
to know of that sweet secret mark. Now, therefore, he may 
return to the chest, and shut the lid, invoking, as he does so, 
" the dragons of the night " to fly swiftly, that " dawning may 
bare the raven's eye." His men doubtless have their orders 
to carry away the supposed treasure-chest by daybreak. Well 
may he dread the time till then : — 

" 1 lodge in fear ; 
Though this a heavenly angel, hell is here." 

And this same hell he is to carry about with him, as we shall 
see, for ever after ; a hell of remorse which robs him of his 
valour and his peace. 

In the morning we find musicians, hired by Cloten, singing 
under Imogen's chamber-window that brightest, daintiest of 
aubades, '* Hark ! hark ! the lark at heaven's gate sings I " as 
if Shakespeare could not choose but pour his own heart out 
in homage to the " di\ine Imogen " he had created. Forced 
to appear in answer to Cloten's importunities, she teUs him 

230 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

frankly, ''You lay out too much ptdns for purchasing but 
trouble." The silly underbred fellow will not take her 
denial, and by his rudeness forces her for a moment to 
meet him with his own weapons. But it is only for a 
moment; and then she offers him this pretty and most 
characteristic apology, even while she makes clearer than 
ever the hopelessness of his suit: — 

'^ I am much sorry, sir, 
You put me to forget a lady's manners, 
By being so verbal : and learn now, for all, 
That 1, which know my heart, do here pronounce, 
By the very truth of it, I care not for you ; 
And am so near the lack of charity, 
(To accuse myself) I hate you ; which I had rather 
You felt, than make't my boast." 

Exasperated by this avowal, Cloten replies by attacking " that 
base wretch " Posthumus : — 

'* One bred of alms, and foster'd with cold dishes, 
With scraps 0' the Court ; " — 

and asserts that her contract with him is no contract at all, 
and that she, being curbed in her actions by "the conse- 
quence o' the crown," must not soil 

" The precious note of it with a base slave, 
A hilding for a livery, a squire's cloth, 
A pantler, not so eminent." 

On this Imogen's patience leaves her, and she turns upon 
him with the same eloquence of scorn with which we have 
before seen her silence lachimo, but with even greater con- 
tempt : — 

Imogen. 231 

" Profane fellow ! 
Wert thou the son of Jupiter, and no more 
But what thou art besides, thou wert too base 
To be his groom. . . . 

Clo, The south-fog rot him ! 

Imo, He never can meet more mischance, than come 
To be but named of thee 1 His meanest garment, 
That ever hath but clipped his body, is dearer 
In my respect than all the hairs above thee, 
Were they all made such men.*' 

Even as she speaks, she misses from her arm the bracelet 
which had never quitted it since Posthumus placed it there, 
and summons Pisanio, whom she bids tell her women to 
search for it. Vexation upon vexation: — 

" I am sprited with a fool. 
Frighted, and angered worse." 

As is so common when we first miss anything, she thinks she 

saw it lately : — 

<< I do think 
I saw't this morning : confident I am 
Last night Was on mine arm ; I kissed it," — 

adding, with a sweet womanish touch — 

'' I hope it be not gone to tell my lord 
That I kiss aught but he." 

" Aught** you see, not " any one.** Alas ! it has gone to him, 
and on a deadlier errand. " Frighted " as Imogen now is, she 
is in no humour to be longer " sprited by a fooL" Cloten's 
threat of appealing to her father is treated with contempt, 
and she leaves him " to the worst of discontent," and to fierce 
threats of vengeance, in the midst of which her preference 

232 Shakespeare's Female Characters: 

for her husband's "meanest garment" is always uppermost 
in his foolish brain. 

In the next scene we are again in Philario's house in Bome, 
to which lachimo has returned with all possible speed. I 
need not dwell upon the skill with which lachimo develops 
his proofs against the virtue of Imogen, bringing them forward 
one by one, as if they were drawn from him reluctantly, and 
mingled with such suggestions as, in the mouth of a known 
voluptuary like himself, could not fail to lend confirmation 
to his story. Posthumus is no easy dupe. His faith in 
Imogen is too deeply rooted. He fights against conviction 
to the last, and only yields when lachimo crowns his story 
by speaking of the mole under Imogen's breast, " right proud 
of that most delicate lodging." Nor is he alone in his con- 
viction; for his friend Philario, who knows lachimo well 
enough to be sure that he would be in no way scrupulous 
about truth in a matter of this kind, is himself compelled 
to come to the same conclusion, and to avow it by saying to 
lachimo, " You have won." It is impossible, indeed, not to 
admire the exquisite art with which this super-subtle Italian 
arrays what he afterwards (Act v. sc. 5) calls " simular proof 
enough to make the noble Leonatus mad," and, in doing so, 
fulfils the dramatist's purpose of keeping alive our respect 
for. the wretched husband, whose whole life is laid waste by 
the ruin of his belief in one who had been the incarnation 
for him of all that was beautiful, and pure, and holy upon 
earth. Were it otherwise, we could not forgive the cruel 
device by which he, who had been her " true knight," all " of 
her honour confident," sought to avenge his imagined wrong, 
by commanding Pisanio to lure her from the Court, on the 

Imogen. 233 

pretext of bringing her to her husband, and then to take away 
her life. 

What a contrast to the scene in which Posthumus gives 
vent to his anguish and despair (Act ii sc. 5) is that in which 
we next see Imogen (Act iiL sc 2) ! It is the one occasion 
in the whole play in which she can smile and is happy. That 
her natural temperament is cheerful, we see by the readiness 
with which she seizes this first opportunity to rejoice — a letter 
from her lord, and when least expected : — 

*' Pif. Madam, here is a letter from my lord, 
/mo. Who ? thy lord ? that is my lord, Leonatns ! ** 

How Pisanio must have shuddered inwardly as he gave it to 
her, knowing for what it was devised, and seeing the ecstasy 
with which it is welcomed ! How pretty is the way in which 
she, as it were, talks to the letter before she opens it : — 

" Oh, leam'd indeed were that astronomer 
That knew the stars as I his characters; 
He'd lay the future open." 

Then the little prayer, like some devout Greek, to the " good 

gods" to 

^ Let what is here contain'd relish of love, 
Of my lord's health, of his content — ^yet not, 
That we two are asunder, — let that grieve him." 

In her overflowing happiness, as she breaks the wax of the 
seals, she blesses the very bees "that make these locks of 
counsel." And then her transport when she finds from the 
letter that Posthumus is again in Britain, and that he invites 
her to meet him ! '' Take notice that I am in Cambria, at 
Milford-Haven. What your own love will out of this advise 

234 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

you, follow." Strange that, being convinced as he is of her 
disloyalty, Fosthumus should be so assured that she would 
fly at once to meet him! She had, he believed, given his 
bracelet to another, "and said she prized it once." Why, 
then, should she encounter fatigue, and even the peril of 
escape from the Court, and come to him ? I can only suppose 
that, being utterly distracted for the time, he had lost the 
power of reasoning; and, mixing up the memory of her 
former love with the story of her late disloyalty, he had 
trusted to the old love to work upon her heart. As to what 
it does advise, there is no question. Her first words are, 
" for a horse with wings ! " Then she plies Pisanio 
rapidly with questions as to how far it is to Milford-Haven, 
She, who has never been outside the precincts of the Court 
except on rare occasions, and then with all its stately retinue, 
cannot plod along like ordinary mortals, who would take 
a week to do it, but she must "glide thither in a day." 
Finding that Pisanio does not second her so eagerly as 
she wishes, she, as it were, reminds him of his afTection for 
his master: — 

"Then, true Pisanio, 
Who long'st, like me, to see thy lord ; who long'st, — 
Oh, let me bate, — but not like me — yet longest, 
But in a fainter kind :— oh, not like me ; 
For mine's beyond beyond." 

How charming is all this! How touching, too, when we 
know what has passed, and what is to come! There is 
a warmth and tenderness in the whole of this scene which 
are all but unequalled. The joy in Imogen's heart overflows 
upon her tongue. She cannot cease her questions. Every- 



Imogen. 235 

thing, every place, is '' blessed " which brings her nearer to 

her lord. 

" How far is it 
To this same Ueesed Milford ? And, by the way, 
Tell me how Wales was made so happy as 
To inherit such a haven ? " — 

a haven which to her seems Elysium, for Fosthumus is there, 
like a happy child, she goes running all round the subject ; 
and then comes the thought, ''How may we steal &om 
hence ? " — how excuse their absence when they return, which 
she apparently thinks will be soon ? 

'* But first, how get hence ? 
Why should excuse be bom or e'er begot ? 
Well talk of that hereafter." 

Her heart and thoughts are so full, that she does not notice 

Pisanio's hesitation when she bids him forthwith provide 

a riding-suit for her, " no costlier than would lit a franklin's 

housewife.'' And when he still prays her to consider, all 

further question is stopped by her kindly but decisive 

answer — 

" I see before me, man : nor here, nor here, 
Nor what ensues, but have a fog in them, 
That I cannot look through." 

Oh, how I enjoyed acting this scene! All had been sad 
before. What a burst of happiness, what play of loving 
fancy, had scope here ! It was like a bit of Bosalind in the 
forest. The sense of liberty, of breathing in the free air, 
and for a while escaping from the trammels of the Court and 
her persecutors tliere, gave light to the eyes and buoyancy to 

236 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

the step. Imogen is already in imagination at that height 
of happiness, at that ''beyond beyond," which brings her 
into the presence of her banished lord. She can only " see 
before her ; " she can look neither right nor left, nor to aught 
that may come after. These things have '' a fog in them she 
cannot look through." " Away ! " she says, " I prithee ; " and 
stops Pisanio's further remonstrance with 

« Do as I bid thee ! there's no more to sav ; 
Accessible is none but Milford way." 

We can imagine with what delighted haste Imogen dons 
the riding-suit of the franklin's housewife ! Pisanio is barely 
allowed time to procure horses. Her women hurry on the 
preparations — for, as we have heard, they are "all sworn 
and honourable ; " and thus rejoicingly she starts on her sad, 
ill-omened journey. Pisanio has little to say during the 
last scene; but what may not the actor express by tone, 
and look, and manner? We know his grief for her, his 
bitter disappointment in her husband: — 

" master ! what a strange infection 
Is fall'n into thy ear ! What false Italian 
(Ab poisonous-tongued as handed) hath prevailed 
On thy too ready hearing ? Disloyal ? No ; 
She's punish'd for her truth. ... my master, 
Thy mind to her is now as low as were 
Thy fortunes ! " 

These thoughts are in his mind, and give the tone to his 
whole bearing. Had Imogen been less wrapped up in her 
own happiness, she must have noticed and questioned him 
about his strange unwillingness to obey his master's orders — 
wondered, too, at his showing no gladness at the thought of 

Imogen. 237 

seeing l^iTn whom she believed that he, "next to herself/' 
most longed to see again. But her eyes are full of that mist 
which obscures everything from view but the one bright spot 
— that blessed Milford where her heart is. 

And now we have to think of Imogen as having escaped 
from her courtly prison-house. By her side rides " the true 
Pisanio," her one friend, and he is conveying her to her 
husband. What happy anticipations fill her heart! Now 
she will be able to teU him all the ''most pretty things" 
she had to say at their sad parting, when they were cut 
short by the entrance of her father, who, 

*' Like the tyrannous breathing of the north, 
Shook aU their buds from blowing.*' 

Absorbed in her own sweet dreams, she does not notice the 
continued silence of her companion, until, having reached 
some deep mountain solitude, he tells her the place of meeting 
is near at hand, and they dismount. It is at this moment 
that they come before us. Imogen, very weary with the 
unusual fatigue, looks anxiously round for the approach of 
Posthumus. For the first time she observes the strangeness 
of Pisanio's manner. " What is in thy mind," she exclaims 
in alarm, 

" That makes thee stare thus 7 Wherefore breaks that sigh 
From the inward of thee ? One, but painted thus, 
Would be interpreted a thing perplex'd 
Beyond self-explication. . . . What* s the matter 7 ^ 

Pisanio, who can find no words to explain his mission, the 
purport of which can neither be slurred over nor lightened 
by any ray of comfort, simply offers her Posthumus's letter 
to himself. " Why," she exclaims, " tender'st thou that paper 






238 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

to me?" She sees the superscription is in her husband's 
hand. How the stories of Italian poisoning must have 
penetrated the English mind in Shakespeare's time! At 
once the thought of danger from this cause occurs to her : — 

^ That drag-damn*d Italy hath out-crafted him. 
And he*8 at some hard point Speak, man ; thy tongue 
May take off some extremity, which to read 
Would be even mortal to me." 

At last he does speak, but so mysteriously that she has to 
turn to the letter itself without any abatement of her terror. 

My pen stops here. I know not how to write. Such a 
charge as that letter contains, to meet the eyes of such 
a creature! She has begun to read, full of apprehension 
for her husband's safety, and from his hand she now receives 
her deathblow. As the last word drops from her lips, her 
head bows in silence over the writing, and her body sinks 
as if some mighty rock had crushed her with its weight. 
These few words have sufficed to blight, to blacken, and to 
wither her whole life. The wonder is, that she ever rises. 
I used to feel tied to the earth. " What need," says Pisanio, 
" to draw my sword ? The paper hath cut her throat already. 
. . . What cheer, madam ? " What indeed ! In a dull 
kind of way, she, after a while, repeats the words in the 
letter : " False to his bed ! What is it to be false ? " Then, 
remembering how so many weary nights have been passed 
by her, she asks — 

'* To lie in watch there, and to think on him ? 
To weep 'twixt clock and clock ? If sleep charge nature, 
To break it with a fearful dream of him, 
And cry myself awake ? That's false to his bed. 
Is it?" 

Imogen. 239 

Her honour wedded to his honour, both must be wrecked 
together! That he should entertain one instant's suspicion 
of her takes the life out of her heart. No sin could be more 
utterly abhorrent to her nature than that of which she is 
accused ; and this no one should know so well as her accuser, 
the companion of her life, the husband from whom no secret, 
not one of her most sacred feelings, has been withheld. It 
is because she feels this, that she can find no other solution 
to the mystery than that the " shes of Italy " have " betrayed 
mine interest and his honour." Then flashes upon her like 
a flood of light lachimo's account of how the "jolly Briton" 
passed his time, — of his opinion of woman, of "what she 
cannot choose but must be," and of his contempt for any 
man who will his "free hours languish for assured bond- 
age," — and, worse still, how he could "slaver with lips as 
common as the stairs that mount the Capitol ; join gripes with 
hands made hard with hourly falsehood ; " be " partnered with 
tomboys," &c. All this comes back sharply on the memory 
of this poor bewildered creature, who holds no other due 
to the motive, can imagine no reason why the hand she 
loved shoidd desire to murder her. In her agony she 
remembers that lachimo, when accusing Posthumus of 
inconstancy, " looked like a villain " ; but, now that his words 
have seemingly come true, she exclaims, "Methinks thy 
favour's good enough." No suspicion crosses her mind that 
this same villain is in any way connected with her present 
suffering. The sleep which "seized her wholly," and made 
her the victim of his treachery, was too deep for that; 
neither could the loss of her bracelet be at all connected 
in her mind with him. Oh, the exquisite cruelty of it 



. ' 


240 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

alii — ^under false pretences to get her from the Court, plant 
her in a lonely desert, and there take her life ! The charge 
against herself of being[ false appears to her but as a weak 
excuse for his own frailty. He is weaiy of her — desires 
to be free. 

'' Poor I am stale — a garment out of fasHion ; 
And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls, 
I must be ripp'd : — to pieces with me ! ^ Oh, 
Men's vows are women's traitors ! ^ 

When she parted from Posthumus, we heard her say she 
was "not comforted to live, but that there is this jewel in 
the world that I may see again." And now, what has that 
jewel proved ? What, then, is life to her now ? What left 
her but to show in death her devotion to her lord ? Were 
ever words so full of anguish, of tender, passionate yearning, 
as hers? 

" Come, fellow, be thou honest ; 
Do thou thy master's bidding : when thou see'st him, 
A little witness my obedience. Look ! 
I draw the sword myself: take it, and hit 
The innocent mansion of my love, my heart : 
Fear not ; 'tis empty of all things but grief: 
Thy master is not there, who was, indeed. 
The riches of it. Do his bidding ; strike ! " 

She sees nothing before her but to die; and when Fisanio 
refuses to '' damn his hand " with the bloody task, she is 
only restrained from killing herself with his sword by the 
thought of the "divine prohibition" against self -slaughter. 
This " cravens her weak hand ; " but, renewing her entreaty 

^ How womanly are Imogen's similes I She would have watched Poethumus, 
as he sailed away, ^ till the diminution of space had pointed him sharp as my 
needle ;" — and here, "I must be ripp'd ; to pieces with me ! " How Shake- 
speare thought woman's thoughts, with no woman then to embody them ! 

Imogen. 241 

to Pifianio, she tears open her dress, that so a readier access 
may be given to her bosom. Then comes that touch so 
characteristic of the sovereign dramatist: — 

'* Come, here's my heart 1 
Something's afore't ! Soft, soft ; well no defence ! 

What is here ? 

The scriptures of the loyal Leonatos, 
All tum'd to heresy? Away, away. 
Corrupters of my faith ! You shall no more 
Be stomachers to my heart ! " 

But even in the climax of her desolation and despair the 
thought occurs to her of that inevitable day of remorse, 
when Fosthumus will feel that her contempt, for his sake, 
of the " suits of princely fellows " was not an " act of common 
passage, but a strain of rareness;" and uppermost in her 
heart is her grief 

^ To think, when thou shalt be disedged by her 
That now thou tir'st on, how thy memory 
Will then he pang'd by me. Prithee, dispatch I 
The lamb entreats the butcher. Where's thy knife ? 
Thou art too slow to do thy master's bidding, 
When I desire it too. 

Pu. gracious lady, 

Since I received command to do this business, 
I have not slept one wink. 

Imo, Do't, and to bed then ! 

Pu. Ill wake mine eyeballs blind first 

Jfno. Wherefore, then. 

Didst undertake it? . . . 

Why hast thou gone so feir, 

To be unbent, when thou hast ta'en ihy stand. 
The elected deer before thee ? 

Pu. But to win time 

To lose so bad employment" 


242 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Praying her patience, Fisanio then tries to make her think, 
as he himself has believed from the first, that it cannot be 
"but that his master is abused." 

" Some villaiD, ay, and singnlar in his art, 
Hath done you both this coisM injury." 

Imogen, who can divine no motive but the one, will not 
entertain this idea. But Pisanio persists in his belief; and 
tells her he will send notice to Posthxmius of her death, along 
with some bloody sign of it, obviously with the conviction 
that this will lead to some explanation of the delusion under 
which his master is labouring. Will she meanwhile go back 
to the Court ? Swift is her answer. " No Court, no father ! " 
What ! face again ''the father cruel, and the step-dame false," 
and the persistent wooing of the " profane fellow " her son ? 
Pisanio has anticipated this answer ; and finding his mistress 
ready even to seek a refuge abroad if necessary — "Hath 
Britain all the sun that shines?" — ^he suggests that a way 
may be found by which she may haply come near 

'' The residence of Poethomus ; so nigh, at least, 
That though his actions were not visible, yet 
Report should render him hourly to your ear, 
As truly as he moves." 

The right chord has been touched by the sympathetic hand 
of this most loyal of retainers. Posthumus may be seen, 
some clue at least be found to what is now aU mystery and 
anguish. " Oh for such means ! " Imogen exclaims, — 

'' Though peril to my modesty, not death on% 
I would adventure ! " 

As a woman, Pisanio knows it would be impossible for her 

Imogen. 243 

to make her way alone to the camp of the Soman general, 
Gains Lucius, where tidings of Posthumus were most likely 
to reach her. Accordingly, he tells her she must don a 
page's dress, "forget to be a woman," be "ready in gibes, 
quick-answered, saucy, and quarrelous as the weasel." How 
little of all this is Imogen in her male attire we shall 
presently sea But the object before her makes all hesita- 
tion vanish: — 

" I see into thy end, and am almost 
A man already,** 

she exclaims, and hails with readiness Pisanio's announcement, 
that he has by anticipation provided for her "doublet, hat, 
hose, all that answer to them," with which she may present 
herself before the noble Lucius. Pisanio adds — 

*' Desire his service, tell him 
Wherein you're happy, (which you'll make him know, 
If that his head have ear in music)." 

She is sure to be well received by him, " for he is honour- 
able, and, doubling that, most holy." He must himself return 
to the Court, to avoid being suspected of having assisted in 
her escape, and at parting gives her a box of medicine, in 
the belief that, in case of illness, it "will drive away dis- 
temper." It had been given to him by the queen, and he 
believes it to be what she professed it was ; for, treacherous 
as he knows her, he has no suspicion that she would turn 
poisoner. It is only the physician Cornelius who suspects 
the queen's purpose, and therefore gives her drugs which 
he leads her to believe will kill, but which, though suspend- 
ing animation for a time, will, like Juliet's potion, allow the 

244 Shakespeare's Female Cfiaracters : 

patient to ''awake as from a pleasant sleep." So for the 
moment they separate, that she may don her man's appareL 
But they obviously meet again, when Pisanio conducts her 
to some mountain-top, from which he points out Milford to 
her, which then seemed " within a ken " (Act iii sc. 6), but 
which she was to find, as inexperienced mountain-travellers 
always do find, was much farther off than it looked. He 
would not leave his "gracious mistress" until he had seen 
that her equipment was complete, and could start her fairly 
on her way. 

What a picture Imogen presents as we see her next (Act 
iiL sc. 6) — alone, among the wild hills, in a strange dress, in 
a strange world — wandering along unknown paths, still far 
away from Milford-Haven ! Oh, that name, Milford-Haven ! 
I never hear it spoken, see it written, without thinking of 
Imogen. Weary and footsore, she wanders on, with the dull 
ache at her heart — far worse to bear than hunger, — ^yearning, 
yet dreading, to get to Milford, that " blessed Milford," as once 
she thought it. When I read of the great harbour and docks 
which are now there, I cannot help wishing that one little 
comer could be found to christen as " Imogen's Haven." 
Never did heroine or woman better deserve to have her name 
thus consecrated and remembered. For two nights she has 
made the ground her bed. What food she had with her has 
long been exhausted ; and there is, oh, so little spur of hope or 
promise in her heart to urge her onwards ! She complains 
but little. The tender nursling of the Court learns, by the 
roughest lessons, what goes on in that outer world of which 
she has seen nothing. " I see," she says, " a man's life is a 
tedious one." StiU, with the patient nobility of her nature, her 

Imogen. 245 

" resolution helps her/' She has set herself a task, and she 
will carry it through. In her heart, despite what she has said 
to Pisanio, there is still a comer in which he " that was the 
riches of it " continues to hold a place — for her love is of the 
kind that alters not " where it alteration finds " ; and she had 
learned thoroughly love's first and greatest lesson — fidelity. 

It was this scene, and those at the cave which immediately 
follow, that, as I have said, laid the strongest hold on my 
young imagination. It seemed so strange, and yet so fitting, 
that, in her greatest grief and loneliness, Imogen should be 
led by an unseen hand to her natural protectors, and that 
they, by an irrepressible instinct, should, at the first sight, be 
moved to love, admire, and cherish her. Before she reaches 
the cave, which is to prove a brief but happy haven of refuge 
for her, we have learned who its inhabitants are. We have 
been told how the old courtier and soldier Belarius, in revenge 
for having been wronged, insulted, and banished by Cymbe- 
line, had, with the help of their nurse Euriphile, stolen his two 
young sons, and brought them up in a mountain-fastness as his 
own ; how he had taught them all the arts he himself knew, 
and into what princely youths they had grown, with but one 
desire ungratified, — ^to see the world, which they knew only by 
report, and take some part in its stirring life. How delightful 
a relief after the overwhelming pathos of the previous scene 
is the accident which brings these noble spirits into contact 
with a being like Imogen, in whom all that makes a woman 
most winning to unspoiled manly natures is unconsciously felt 
through the boyish disguise ! And she — how well prepared 
she is to take comfort in the gentle, loving thoughtfulness 
shown to her by these " kind creatures " 1 

t^6 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Think of her, the daintily nurtured woman, as she comes to 
their cave, spent with fatigue, and made desperate by hunger ! 
On her way she has met two beggars, whom she may have 
helped with money, but who could not help her with food. 
They have told her she " could not miss her way ; " yet she 
has missed it. How touching the vein of thought this incident 
opens in her mind !- 

" WiU poor folks lie, 
That have afflictionfi on them ? . . . Yes ; no wonder, 
When rich ones scarce tell true.'' 

Then, more in pity than reproach, she adds, " My dear lord, 
thou art one o' the false ones ! " We see that he ts her '' dear 
lord" stilL But the thought of him brings back her heart- 
sickness, and takes away her hunger, — although, just before^ 
she was at the ''point to sink for food." Then she per- 
ceives the entrance to the cave of Belarius, and the path 
to it. 

*' Tis some savage hold : 
'Twere best not call ; I dare not calL** 

In my first rehearsals of this scene, I instinctively adopted 
a way of entering the cave which I was told was unusual 
My dear friend and master approved of my conception. Mr 
Elton, my Pisanio, liked it much; and Mr Macready, after 
expressing many apprehensions, thought I might try it You 
have seen, and therefore I need not dwell on it more than to 
remind you that Imogen's natural terror was certain to make 
her exaggerate tenfold the possible dangers which that cave 
might cover, from wild animals, or, still worse, from savage 
men. Bemember her Court training, her entire unfitness 

Imogen. 247 

for, and ignorance of, anything unlike the life she had been 
reared in, — for, as she says herself — 

" Plenty and peace breed cowards ; hardness ever 
Of hardiness is mother." 

But for sheer famine, — which, " ere it clean o'erthrow nature, 
makes it valiant," — she would rather have gone away, given 
up the thought of help, and laid her down to die, '' as to a 
bed, that longing she'd been sick for." The "Ho! who's 
here ? " was given, as you may remember, with a voice as faint 
and full of terror as could be, — ^followed by an instant shrink- 
ing behind the nearest bush, tree, or rock Then another and 
a little bolder venture: "If anything that's civil, speak!" 
Another recoiL Another pause: "If savage, take or lend! 
Ho ! " Graining a little courage, because of the entire silence : 
" No answer ? then I'll enter I " — peering right and left, still 
expecting something to pounce out upon her, and keeping 
ready, in the last resort, to fly. Then the sword, which had 
been an encumbrance before, and something to be afraid of, 
comes into her mind. If the dreaded enemy be as cowardly 
as herself, it will keep him at bay : — 

'^ Best draw my sword ; and if mine enemy 
But fear the sword like me, hell scarcely look on't" 

And so, with great dread, but still greater hunger, and hold- 
ing the sword straight before her, she creeps slowly into the 

What a vision is that which, as she sits in the semi-darkness 
of their rude home, Imogen presents to Belarius and his two 
foster-sons as they return from the chase! Looking in, he 
warns them back: — 

248 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

'* Stay ; come not in ! 
But that it eats our yictualB, I should think 
Here were a fairy. 

Qvi, What's the matter^ sir ? 

BeL By Jupiter, an angel ! or, if not, 
An earthly paragon ! Behold divineness 
No elder than a boy ! " 

Startled by their voices, Imogen comes forward, still trembling 
with fear, to explain why she had entered unbidden into their 
cave: — 

'' Qood masters, harm me not : 
Before I entered here, I call'd ; and thought 
To have begged or bought what I have took. Qood troth^ 
I have stolen nought ; nor would not, though I had found 
Gold strew'd i' the floor." 

How that sweet pleading figure, that voice so wistful, so 
irresistible in its tender beseeching pathos, finds an instant 
passage to their hearts! When she offers money for what 
she has eaten, the suggestion is received with a burst of 
surprise by the young mountaineers, which she mistakes 
for anger 1 — 

" I see you're angry : 
Enow, if you kill me for my fault, I should 
Have died had I not made it" 

The young fellows, abashed that their words have caused 
fresh alarm when they meant but kindness, let Belarius 
inquire her name, and whither she is going. She gives 
herself an apt one — Fidele — and explains that she is on her 
way to Milford to join a kinsman who has embarked there 
for Itfidy. Belarius tries to reassure her by words of cordial 
kindness, and bids the boys, who are hanging shyly back, to 
give her welcome. They do so, each in a way that marks 

Imogen. 249 

'"Mongst friends!" murmurs Imogen to herself, adding, as 
if to give voice to the prophetic instinct which draws her 
towards them: — 

" If brotheiB ? — ^Would it had been so, that they 
Had been my father's sons ! then had my prize 
Been less ; and so more equal ballasting 
To thee, Posthumus.'' 

Posthumus, ever Posthumus, uppermost in her mind! As 
a fresh spasm of pain passes over her face at the thought 
of him, Belarius says to the boys, " He wrings at some dis- 
tress;" and they, true knightly spirits as they are, are all 
eagerness to avert it: — 

"flfui. Would I could freet 1 
Arv. Or I, whatever it be, 

What pain it cost, what danger ! Qods I ^ 

While the common blood of near relationship is warming 
the hearts of these noble boys, Imogen recognises the true 
ring of fine breeding in them. Of Belarius she takes little 
note. Her thoughts centre upon them. No prince or paladin. 

the difference of their characters. Ouiderius, the elder, and 

more likely to be sensitive to the womanly element that 

gives this seeming boy so much of her charm, says, " Were 

you a woman, youth, I should woo hard but be your groom," 

Arviragus accosts her with words that must have been more 

welcome to her : — I 

^ 111 make't my comfort, 
He is a man ; I'll love him as my brother : 
And such a welcome as I'd give to him, 
After long absence, such is yours. Most welcome I 
Be sprightly, for you fisdl 'mongst friends ! '' 


2y> Shakespeare s Femude Characters : 

fkMb wttM, with thtt fine pfnfliiii ng MppnoMtkm of chtncter 
wUdi SbaJuMpeue nmksasooe of lier qmlitie8,ooiiId''oiitr 
peer thete twain " : — 

« FBdoB »e, godi ! 
rd chtti^e 1^ MX to be wifinn vidi them. 

She still keeps aloof with natnial timidity, bat at length 
yidds to their repeated p r ayer s that she will ''draw near," 
and share their sapper with them in the "rade place they 
live in." 

We can imagine the scene in the cave that evening. When 
thqr have sapped, they woold '^ mannerly demand " the stoiy 
of the boy, which, we hear afterwards, was told in a veiy 
gaaided way: — 

^ CM, He Mid he was gentle, bat unibrtiiiiate ; 
Dishonesily afflicted, bat yet honeet 

Aru, Thus did be answer me ; yet said, beieafier 
I might know maze." 

What that "more" was, how little could they guess! By 
this time they would have foxmd their softest skins to make 
a couch for one so delicate, which she, with all a woman's 
instinct, would wrap well around her limbs. Then, forgetting 
fatigue, she would sing or recite to them some tale, of which 
we know she had many well stored in her memory. How 
the charm her presence had wrought would deepen upon 
them as the night wore away, and how the dreams that 
filled their sleep would carry on the sweet dream of the 
waking hours which they had passed by her side! 

How long Imogen remains their guest we are not told — 
some days it must have been, else all the things they speak 


Imogen. 251 

of could not have happened. For the first time, their cave 
is felt to be a home. On their return from their day's sport, 
a fresh smell of newly strewn rushes, we may think, pervades 
it. Where the light best finds its way into the cavern are 
seen such dainty wild-flowers as she has found in her solitary 
rambles. Fresh water from the brook is there. The vege- 
tables are washed, and cut into quaint shapes to garnish the 
dishes; a savoury odour of herbs comes from the stewing 
broth, and a smile, sweet beyond all other sweetness in their 
eyes, salutes them as they hurry in, each vying with the 
other who first shall catch it. When the meal is ready, 
they wait upon Fidele, trying with the daintiest morsels to 
tempt her small appetite; and, when it is over, and she is 
couched upon their warmest skins, they lay themselves at her 
feet, while she sings to them, or tells them tales of ''high 
emprise and chivalry," as becomes a king's daughter. Even 
the old Belarius feels the subtle charm, and wonders, yet 
not grudgingly, to see how this stranger takes a place in the 
hearts of his two boys even before himself : — 

*' Tm not their father ; yet who this should be 
Doth miracle itself, loved before me." 

Meanwhile great events have taken place at Cymbeline's 
Court He has refused to acknowledge the claim for tribute 
presented from the Roman Emperor by his envoy Gains 
Lucius, who, after announcing that it will be claimed at the 
point of the sword, craves and receives a safe-conduct for 
himself overland to Milford-HaveiL Cymbeline has pre- 
pared for the eventuality of war, and his preparations are 
80 far advanced that he looks forward with confidence to 

252 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

the issue. The kingly qualities of the man are well shown, 
and contrast with his weakness in his domestic relations. 
And now he misses his daughter, whom he has not had 
time to think of for some days: — 

« My gentle queen, 
Where is our daughter ? She hath not appeared 
Before the Roman, nor to us hath tendered 
The duty of the day." 

An attendant is despatched to summon her to the pre- 
sence; while the queen, continuing to play the part of a 
seeming tender mother to her, who, as we know, " was as a 
scorpion to her sight " — to her whose life she had intended 
to have " ta'en ofiF by poison," — explains, that since the exile 
of Posthumus, Imogen has kept in dose retirement, the cure 

" TIb Time must do. Beseech your migesty, 
Forbear shaip speeches to her. She's a lady 
So tender of rebukes, that words are strokes, 
And strokes death to her." 

When the attendant returns after finding the princess's 
chambers locked and tenantless, the king is seriously alarmed. 
His conscience smites him when he thinks to what his un- 
kindness may have led : — 

" Her doors locked 1 
Not seen of late ? Qrant, heavens, that which I fear 
Prove false I " 

And he rushes away, followed by Cloten, to find his worst 
fears confirmed. Pisanio gone, and Imogen! In this the 
queen sees a step gained in her plot to raise her son to the 
throne. Pisanio's absence, she hopes, may be caused by his 

Imogen. 253 

having swallowed the drag — a poison, as she beUeves — ^which 
she had given him. As for Imogen, she is gone 

'* To death or to dishonour ; and my end 
Can make good use of either : she being down, 
I have the placing of the British crown." 

The king, Cloten teUs her on his return, is so wild with 
rage, that '' none dare come about him/' The fitter, then, to 
fall an easy prey to her cajoling ! Accordingly she hurries 
away to reinforce her sway over him, " by watching, weeping, 
tendance," and affectation of sympathy, and so to move him 
by her craft ''to work her son into the adoption of the 

Meantime this son is working for himself a very different 
ending to his ignoble life. Seeing Pisanio, who has just 
returned, he accosts him with his usual braggart air: — 

" Where is thy lady ? 

Close villain 1 

111 have this secret from thy heart, or rip 
Thy heart to find it ! " 

Pisanio, not knowing how else to account for Imogen's 
absence, and to mislead Cloten, gives him the letter from 
Posthumus, appointing the meeting at Milford-Haven,— one 
of those "scriptures of the loyal Leonatus," which he had 
picked up when she tore them from her breast. 
" Or this," he says to himself, " or perish ! " 

'* She's far enough ; and what he learns by this 
May prove his travel, not her danger. . . . 
Ill write to my lord she's dead. Imogen, 
Safe mayst thoa wander, safe return again ! " 

254 Shakespeare's Female Characters: 

Gloten, who meantime hae been reading and re-ieading the 
letter — for we have been told bow dull his wite are — eeee in 
it an opening for the revenge on Posbhumus and Imogen on 
which he has set his heart. He will get from Pisanio a suit 
of his master's clothes; and Pisanio, who has no reason to 
withhold them from the silly fellow, agrees to let him have 
the same suit that Posthumus wore when he took leave of 
Imogen. Thus, in the veiy garment which she had lately 
told him she held "in more respect than hia noble and 
natural person," will he pursue the princess to Milford- 
Haven, kill Posthnmns before her eyes, and "knock her 
back to the Court — foot her home again. She hath despised 
me rejoicingly, and 111 be merry in my revenge." 

When we next see Cloten, he has reached the spot to 
which Pisanio, believing Imogen to be by this time in the 
sn^ce of the Koman general, felt he might safely direct 
him as the meeting-place of the lovers. It is near Belarius's 
cav& Gloten ia more than ever enamoured of his personal 
appearance in the garments of Posthumus. "The lines of 
my body," he says, "are as well drawn as his; no less 
young, more strong " — sentences skilfully introduced by tiie 
poet to account (or his body being presently mistaken by 
Imogen, when she sees it lying headless, for that of Post- 
humus. I>rawing his sword, he goes off in search of those 
who, he fancies, vapouring fool as he is, will be his easy 
victims. Straightway from Ae cave comes forth the group 
tJiat inhabit it Imc^en, with all their care, is still sick. 
Belarius would have her remain in the cave until they 
return from hunting, "Brother," says Arviragus, "atey 
here ; are we not brothers ? " At their first meeting he 

Imogen. 255 

had said he would love her as a brother, and every hour 
since had deepened the feeling on his part. Imogen can 
but answer ambiguously- 

** So znan and man should be ; 
Bat day and clay differs in dignity, 
Whose dust is both alike. I am very sick." 

Upon this Guiderius, who, though of a more robust, is jet 
evidently of a more sensitive nature, and who from the first 
had wished Fidele were a woman, offers to remain behind 
to tend him. But now Imogen makes light of her ailment, 
being in truth only too glad to remain alone with her heart- 
sickness, to which she can then give way. Gentle and kind 
as her companions are, she is upon the stretch when they are 
by, dreading to be further questioned as to her story, and by 
reason of her natural disposition to lose herself in others, 
desiring also to do her utmost to contribute to their comfort 
and enjoyment. She cannot deny that she is ill — 

^ Bat your being by me 
Cannot amend me : society is no comfort 
To one not sociable." 

Then she adds playfully, to set them at ease in leaving her — 

« I am not veiy sick. 
Since I can reason of it Pray you, trust me here ; 
111 rob none but myself.** 

Again do both the boys proffer in warmest terms the 
assurance of their love, avowing it to be deeper than that 
for their supposed father — ^the only love they have ever 
known; but as she still deprecates their absenting them- 
selves from the chase, they yield to her wish. Their tender-^ 


256 Shake^ares FetntUe Characters : 

□esB and perfect courtesy have gone to her veiy heart; 
and as she moves lii^jeringly back towards the cave, she 
says — 

"These are Und cTektnres. GotU, what liea I have heard 1 
Our courtien uy all's savage but at Conrt. 
E:qieiieiice, oh, thou disprovest report I 

I am dck still — Iieart<ick. I^sanio, 
111 now tsste of thr drag." 

Her companions watch her as she retires. There is some- 
thing so touching, so especially and mysteriously sad aboat 
her look and movements to-day, that tiiey will not go without 
a fresh assurance to her that they will soon be back — 

".iff. WtfU not be long away. 
BA. Fn7, be not nek, 

Foi joa must be onr hoosevife." 

" Well or ill, I am bound to you 1 " are Imogen's words, as she 
disappears into the cave, with a wistful smile that insensibly 
awakens fresh perplexity in their hearts, as we see by what 
follows ; — 

" Bd. This joath, howe'ei distreu'd, appears he hath had 
Good anceston. 

Are. How angel-like he sings I 

Qvi. Bnt his neat cookeT7 ! He cat oni roots in characters. 
And sauced oni broths, as Jnno had been dck, 
And he her dieter. 

Atv. Noblj he yokes 

A smiling with a sigh. .... 

(hii. I do note 

That grief and patience, rooted in him both, 
Mingle t^eii spun bother." 

What a picture do these sentences bring before us of a true 

Imogen. 257 

lady and princess, — ^not sitting apart, brooding over her own 
great grief, that her dear lord should be "one o' the false 
ones," but bestirring herself to make their cavern-home as 
attractive and pleasant to them as only the touch and feeling 
of a refined woman could ! 

They are interrupted by the entrance of Cloten, who, not 
seeing them at first, exclaims, "I cannot find these runa- 
gates!" Belarius, who has seen Cloten at the Court many 
years before, recognises him as the queen's son, and, thinking 
that the phrase applies to himself and his companions, sus- 
pects that some ambush has been set for them. He and 
Arviragus are hurried off by Ouiderius, to "search what 
companies are near," while he remains to confront this 
stranger. Cloten, catching sight of them as they retire, 
tries to stop them by recourse to his usual strain of bully- 
ing arrogance: — 

" What are you, 

That fly me thus ? Some villain mountaineers ? 
I have heard of such. What slave art thou ? " 

Of all tones, this is the least likely to move the manly spirit 
of Guiderius. To Cloten's demand that he should yield to 
him, he repUes scornfully— 

"Towho? Tothee? Whatartthou? Have not I 
An arm as big as thine ? a heart as big % 
Thy words, I grant, are bigger ; for I wear not 
My dagger in my mouth. Say what thou art, 
Why I should yield to thee ! 

OZo. Thou villain base, 

Enow'st me not by my dothes ? " 

This only provokes in Guiderius utter contempt for his assail- 
ant. ''Thou art some fool; I am loath to beat thee." As 


258 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

little is he awed by Cloten's farther announcement of his 
name, and of the fact that he is son to the queen. Fool to 
the last, Cloten now attacks Guiderius, with perfect confi- 
dence that he must make short work, first of him, and then of 
his companions ; and they go out fighting, with the result, as 
we presently hear, that Guiderius disarms him, cuts off his 
head with his own sword and casts it into the river, that it 
may thence '* to the sea, and tell the fishes he's the queen's 
son, Cloten." To die by the hands of this right royal youth 
seems too good a death for such a creature. Yet, remember- 
ing his persecution of Imogen, and lus brutality of intention 
towards her, it is most fit that her own brother should be her 
avenger, and so commence the work of retribution ; the next 
stage of which is the death of Cloten's mother, — who dies in 
mad despair when she hears her son is dead, — shaving first 
made confession of her deadly designs, and thereby solved 
many mysteries which would otherwise have been difficult 
to dear up (Act v. sc. 5). 

When Belarius hears of Cloten's death, he is naturally 
apprehensive that the search which will be made for hm 
may lead to the discovery of their mountain retreat. " Well 
hunt no more to-day," he says, " nor seek for danger where 
there's no profit ; " and he sends Arviragus to the cave, telling 
him, " You and Fidele play the cooks." " Poor sick Fidele ! " 
Arviragus exclaims. 

" 111 willingly to him : to gain his colour, 
I'd let a parish of such Clotens blood, 
And praise myself for charity." 

What a change Imogen has wrought upon his young pupils ! 
What charming features in their character have been devel- 

Imogen. 259 

oped by her influence! This change we infer from what 

Belarius says of them, while he stays without, waiting for the 

return of Guiderius : — 

'* thou goddess, 
Thou divine Nature, how thyself thou blazon'st 
In these two princely boys ! They are as gentle 
As zephyrs blowing below the violet, 
Not wagging his sweet head ; and yet as rough, 
Their royal blood enchafed, as the rudest wind, 
That by the top doth take the mountain pine, 
And make him stoop to the vale." 

Guiderius returns to tell that he has sent Cloten's " clotpoll 
down the stream, in embassy to his mother." Suddenly they 
hear the " ingenious instrument " which Belarius had made, 
and which '' solemn thing " had not been set in motion since 
the death of Euriphile, the supposed mother of the boys. 
Why should this be? What does Arviragus mean? The 
answer is given by his issuing from the cave, '' bearing Imo- 
gen as dead in his arms." I know not with what emotions 
this passage is received in the theatre, for I have never seen 
the play acted ; but, often as I have read it, I can never read 
it afresh without a rush of tears into my eyes : — 

" Arv. The bird is dead, 

That we have made so much on. I had rather 
Have skipped from sixteen years of age to sixty, 
To have tum'd my leaping-time into a crutch, 
Than have seen this. 

Qui, sweetest, fairest lily ! 

My brother wears thee not one-half so well 
As when thou grew'st thyself. 

Btl Thou blessed thing ! 

Jove knows what man thou mightst have made ; but I, 
Thou diedst, a most rare boy, of melancholy. 
How found you him ? 

26o Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Arv. Stark, as 70a see : 

Thus smiling, as some fly had tickled slumber, 
Not as death's dart, being laughed at ; his right cheek 
Beposing on a cushion. 

Out. Where 1 

Arv. 0* the floor ; 

His arms thus leagued. I thought he slept, and put 
My clouted brogues from off my feet, whose rudeness 
Answered my steps too loud. 

ChU. Why, he but sleeps : 

If he be gone, he'll make his grave a bed ; 
With female fedries will his tomb be haunted. 
And worms will not come to thee. 

Arv, With fairest flowers. 

While summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele, 
111 sweeten thy sad grave. Thou shalt not lack 
The flower that's like thy fSetce, pale primrose, nor 
The azured harebell, like thy veins ; no, nor 
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander, 
Out-sweeten'd not thy breath ; . . . . 

Yea, and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none, 
To winter-ground thy corse. 

Qui, Prithee, have done ; 

And do not play in wench-like words with that 
Which IB so serious. Let us bury him, 
And not protract with admiration what 
Is now due debt. — To the grave ! 

Arv. Say, where shall's lay him 1 

Qui. By good Euriphile, our mother. 

Arv. Be't so : 

And let us, Polydore, . . . sing him to the ground, 
As once our mother.'' 

Then says the deep-hearted Guiderius, "I cannot sing; I'll 

weep, and word it with thee." Belarius, who has stood 

silently by, now says: — 

'* Great griefs, I see, medicine the less ; for Cloten 
Is quite foigot He was a queen's son, boys ; 

Imogen. 261 

And thougli he came our enemy, remember 
He was paid for that . . . Oar foe was princely ; 
And though you took his life, as being our foe, 
Yet bury him as a prince. 

67ut. Pray you, fetch him hither. 

Thersites' body is as good as Ajax', 
When neither are alive. 

Aro. If you'll go fetch him. 

We'll say our song the while. Brother, begin.'' 

And then they repeat that sweetest dirge that ever was 
devised by aching heart for those who, having done their 
worldly task, have gone to a better than mortal home — 

'* Fear no more the heat o' the sun," &c. 

When Belarius returns with the body of Cloten, they lay 
it by Imogen's side. Belarius will not leave the poor '' dead 
bird/' even for a little, without a further tribute : — 

'' Here's a few flowers ; but, about midnight, more : 
The herbs that have on them cold dew o' the night 
Are strewings fitt'st for graves. — Upon their faces. 
You were as flowers, now wither'd : even so 
These herblets shall, which we upon you strew. 
Come on, away ; apart, upon our knees." 

So do they retire to pray and meditate, purposing to return 
at a later hour to lay the bodies in the grave. Well do I 
remember my delight, in my early readings of the play, that 
only flowers were put upon Imogen's face, and that she 
awakened so soon after ! Perhaps their cool fresh fragrance 
helped to recover her from the swoon. Had she lain till 
midnight, no doubt the burial rites would have been com- 
pleted, and the earth — oh, horrible ! — would thus have 
covered up and smothered her. When, late in the evening, — 

262 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

for the presence of the Boman general and his men, who come 
presently to the spot, must have made them avoid it for a 
time, — ^her companions return with the night-flowers, to com- 
plete the last sad rite of burial, what must have been their 
surprise to find that their office had been anticipated — no 
trace, at least, to be seen of the bodies which they had so 
lately left! 

Scarcely have they gone apart to pray, before Imogen 
awakes, and finds by her side what she thinks the dead body 
of her husband. Though the semblance of life has been 
suspended by Fisanio's drug, her sleep has not been dream- 
less. She awakens asking her way to Milford-Haven from 
some one, who she fancies teUs her it is still six miles distant. 
The dream is still with her : — 

« I thank you. By yond bush ? Pray, how fat thither ? 
'Odfl pittikins ! can it be six miles yet ? — 
I have gone all night. 'Faith, I'll lie down and deep." 

Then, becoming conscious of something by her side : — 
*' But soft ! no bedfellow ! — gods and goddesses 1 " 

She is now fully awake, feels the flowers about her, and sees 
the blood-stained body by her side : — 


'* These flowers are like the pleasures of the world ; 
This bloody man, the care on't. I hope I dream ; 
For so I thought I was a cave-keeper, 
And cook to honest creatnres ; but 'tis not so." 

Surprise combines with fear to overwhelm her : — 

" Good feith 
I tremble still with fear. But if there be 
Yet left in heaven as small a drop of pity 
As a wren's eye, f ear'd gods, a part of it ! " 

Imogen. 263 

She looks about her ; the cave, the rocks, the woodland that 
she knew, are there : — 

^ The dream's here still : even when I wake, it is 
Without me, as within me ; not imagined, felf 

And yet how comes it that she should be lying beside a 
headless man? On looking closer she recognises the gar- 
ments of Posthumus — ^the figure too — 'tis veiy Posthumus ! 

" I know the shape of his leg ; this is his hand ; 
His foot Mercurial ; his Martial thigh ; 
The brawns of Hercules : but his Jovial £eice — 
Murder in heaven ! — How ! — ^'Tis gone." 

At once her thoughts fix on Pisanio as having betrayed them 
both with his forged letters. It is he, " conspired with that 
irregulous devil Cloten," that has cut o£f her lord. All 
former distrust of that '' dear lord " vanishes on the instant^ 
and he is restored to the place in her heart and imagination 
which he had held before. They have both been the victims 
of the blackest treachery, and Pisanio, ''danmed Pisanio/' 
hath — 

" From this most bravest vessel of the world 
Struck the main-top ! " 

Think of the anguish of her cry : — 

*' Posthumus ! Alas, 
Where is thy head ? whereas that ? Ay me ! where's that ? 
Pisanio might have killed thee at the heart, 
And left this head on. How should this be ? Pisanio — 
Tis he, and Cloten. Malice and lucre in them 
Have laid this woe here. Oh, 'tis pregnant, pregnant ! 
The drug he gave me, which he said waa piectoua 

264 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

And cordial to me, have I not found it 
Murdeions to the senses ? That confirms it home ! 
All corses madded Hecuba gave the Greeks, 
And mine to boot, be darted on thee ! " 

And ¥dtli one long agonised wail, " Oh, my lord, my lord ! " 
she falls senseless upon the body. 

There she is presently found by Gains Lucius and his fol- 
lowers, as they pass on their way to Milford-Haven to meet 
the legions from Gallia, and a select corps from Italy " under 
the conduct of the bold lachimo," who have arrived there for 
the purpose of enforcing the tribute from Gymbeline. On 
perceiving the body of Gloten, Lucius exclaims : — 

<<Soft,ho! What trunk is here 
Without his top 1 The ruin speaks that sometime 
It was a worthy building. How ! A page 1 
Or dead, or sleeping on him 1 But dead rather ; 
For nature doth abhor to make his bed 
With the defunct, or sleep upon the dead. 
Let's see the boy's fiEu^e.'' 

They raise him from the body, and Lucius asks in language 
full of sympathy, " What is thy interest in this sad wreck ? 
How came it? Who is it? What art thou?" What a 
world of pathos is in her answer 

" I am nothing ; or, if not, 
Nothing to be were better.'' 

Truly may she say so ! All interest in life is over. She is 
full, too, of self-reproach, to add to the bitterness of her loss. 
How could she slander, even in thought, the man who was, 
in her esteem, '' worth any woman," so much worthier than 

Imogen. 265 

herself that he had '' overbought her almost the sum he paid?" 
Her words now shall at least make some atonement : — 

^ This was my master, 
A yeiy valiant Briton, and a good, 
That here by mountaineers lies slain. Alas ! 
There are no more such masters : I may wander 
From east to Occident, cry out for service, 
Try many, all good, serve truly, never 
Find such another master. 

Im/o, 'Lack, good youth, 

Thou moVst no less with thy complaining, than 
Thy master in bleeding. Say his name, good friend. 

Jmo. Richard du Champ. \AM^^ If I do lie, and do 
No harm by it, though the gods hear, I hope 
They^ pardon it !— Say you, sirl 

Life. Thy name 1 

IrM. Fidele, sir. 

Ltfc. Thou dost approve thyself the very same : 
Thy name well fits thy faith, thy faith thy name. 
Wilt take thy chance with me ? I will not say 
Thou shalt be so well mastered, but, be sure. 
No less beloved." 

Here we see how the veiy tone and look of Imogen, apart 
from the boy's desolate state, impress Caius Lucius, as they 
have done all those who have ever been near her, with their 
resistless charm. He continues : — 

^* The Roman emperor's letters, 
Sent by a consul to me, should not sooner 
Than thine own worth prefer thee. Qo with me." 

The boy says he will follow, but first must see all honour 
paid to his master's grave. It shall be as deep, to hide him 
from the flies, as these '' poor pickaxes " (his hands) can dig. 
And when it has been strewn with wild wood-leaves and 

266 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

veeda, and he has " on it said a centuty of prayers " as best 
he can through choking tears and sighs, he will then take 
leave of the master, the like of whom the world holds " from 
east to ocddent" no other, and will follow Lucius — "So 
please you entertain me." He promises no new service to 
this new master. He looks forward to nothing. The strength 
of his heart, his hopes, his usefulness, will all be buried in 
the grave thus left behind. Not to go with this kind man 
who offers help would have seemed ungracious ; and to keep 
up her disguise for a while will leave Imogen more free to 
nurse her grief. Alas! alas! all the strangers to her are 
kind and pitiful ; but the one is gone, done horribly to death, 
who could alone have brought comfort to her heart I If 
anything could have drawn her towards this gentle, manly 
Bomen, it would have been the way he assures the boy that 
he shall be taken into his service, and treated by him as a 
father rather than a master. " My friends," he adds, 

"The boj hath tanght tu manly duties : let iu 
Find out the prettiert daisied plot we can. 
And make him with onr pikes and partisans 
A grave. . . . 'Bay, he is prefeir'd 
Bf thee to na ; and he shall be inteiT'd 
Afl Boldiera can. Be cheeifol ; wipe thine eyes ; 
Some falls are means the hairier to arise." 

And SO we lose sight of Imogen for a time. That she should 
be " cheerful," we know to be impossible : — 

"All was ended now — the hope, the fear, and tiie sorrow ; 
AU the aching of heart, the restless nnsatisfied longing ; 
All the doll deep pain, and constant anguish of patience." 

Bnt from what we have seen of her before, we know that ahe 

/ ^- 



Imogen. 267 

¥dll fight bravely with her own heart, and will not let others 
be made unhappy by her grief. To forget is past, her power, 
but she will repay the kindness shown her by throwing her- 
self zealously into the duties of her position* Lucius will keep 
the boy near him, employing him in light tasks about his tent 
He will note with what noble gentleness and patience these 
duties are performed. For amid the noisy stir of the camp, 
as in the silent solitude of the cave, Imogen, with the self- 
abnegation and devotion to others which distinguish her, 
bears her heavy burden silently and alone. Never master, 
as Lucius afterwards tells us, had 

" A page 80 kind, so duteous, diligent, 
So tender over his occasions, tme, 
So feat, so nuise-like.** 

We must leave Imogen for a while, for the events are now 
hurrying on which are to bring her sorrows to a happy close. 

At the opening of the fifth act we find Fosthumus, on the eve 
of battle, in the ground betwixt the Boman and the British 
camps, having been brought over, as he tells us, ''among the 
Italian gentry, to fight against his lady's kingdonL" From 
the hour the " bloody cloth " reached him, which Pisanio has 
sent as the evidence of Imogen's death, he has been upon the 
rack. What was he, that, even were she the guilty thing he 
thought her, he should have sent her from the world with her 
sins unshriven ? — 

<<Qodal if you 
Should have ta*en vengeance on my faultSi I never 
Had lived to put on this : so had you saved 
The noble Imogen to repent^ and struck 
Me, wrateh more wcvth your Tengeanee." 

268 Skake^eares Female Characters : 

Kever, never can he have been withoot miflgiving that all 
lacfaimo bod said of her was untme. Since her sai^xieed 
dead], " the idea of her life " most have " sweetly crept into 
bis study of imagination," and pictured her there as the awe^ 
poie, noble creature who had fostered all that was beet and 
bluest in himsell Agun have come back to tiitu , in all 
their vivid freshness, her beanty, her "gradoos parte," her 
bright mind, the grace and colour of all things that she did. 

" "n* enough 
That, BriUis, I have kjll'd thjr mistrttH. PeM« ! 
Ill give no wonnd to thee. . . . Ill dinabe me 
Of these Italian weeds, and suit myself 
Aa does a fiiiton peuant : ao 111 fi^t 
Against the part I come with ; h 111 die 
For thee, Imc^en, even for whom my lifb 
la, ever; breath, a death." 

And to what purpose he does fight we soon see. The gods 
Jtow "put the strength of the Leonati" in him for which he 
prays, and so made him a main instrument in bringing about 
the restoration of his Imogen to Ms arms, and in avenging 
the wrong wrought upon them both by lachimo. In the 
next Bcene, he encounters lachimo, and after HiaArming him, 
he leaves him unscathed, probably from a noble impulse not 
to take the life of a man towards whom he felt a profound 
personal repugnance. lachimo, who has not recognised 
Posthumus in his peasant's garb, thinks that his guilt has 
robbed him of his manhood, and that the air of the country, 
whose princess he has beUed, " revengingly enfeebles" him. 
How else should one of \\& mere " carles " have subdued him ? 
The battle continues, success waveiing from side to side. 
At first the Bomans have the best of it, and Cymheliue ie 

Imogen. 269 

taken. Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragos arrive, and rally 
the flying Britons. The stir of war, we have been shown in 
a previous scene, has roused the princely ardour of the youths, 
and at all risks they have resolved to strike a blow in the 
tented field for their country's sake. How they fight, sup- 
ported by Belarius, Fosthumus, who had come to their aid, 
afterwards tells us in one of those passages written at a 
white-heat, in which Shakespeare's patriotic spirit revels. 
"Athwart the lane," he says, "an ancient soldier," "with 
two striplings," 

'* Made good the paasage ; cried to those that fled, 
' Our Britain's harts die flying, not our men : 
To darkness fleet souls that fly backwards ! Stand.' 

These three, 

Three thousand confident, in act as many — 

. . . — with this word, ' Stand, stand,' 

Accommodated by the place, more charming 

With their own nobleness (which could have turned 

A distaff to a lanceX gilded pale looks, 

Part shame, part spirit renewed ; that some, tum*d coward 

But by example (oh, a sin in war, 

Damn'd in the first beginners !) 'gan to look 

The way that they did, and to grin like lions 

Upon the pikes 0' the hunters," &c. 

The tide of battle is turned, Fosthumus himself performing 
prodigies of valour in the rescue of Cymbeline, while he 
seeks vainly for the death he cannot find : — 

^^ I, in mine own woe charm'd. 
Could not find death where I did hear him groan, 
Nor feel him where he struck. .... 
. . . Well, I wiU find him." 

He will resume the Boman dress, and so be taken prisoner : — 

270 Shakespeare's Female Characters: 

" For m«, my naacaa't death : 
On either side I come to spend my bieath, 
Which neither here 111 keep nor bear again, 
But end it by some mesne for Imogen." 

His vish is gratified. Some British soldiers bring him a will- 
ing captive to the presence of the king. A crowd of prisoners 
is already Uiere, among them lachimo, Lncius, and with them 
Imogen, who has obviously followed Lucius, despite his 
entreaties to the contrary, through all the chances of the 
battle, hoping, like Posthumus, to meet in death a release 
from her now hopeless sorrow. Here the fine character of 
Lucius is again shown. He asks no mercy for himself. 
" Sufficeth, a Soman with a Soman's heart can suffer." His 
only care is for the boy who has served him so well : — 

" Thifl one t.Ttinp only 
I will entreat ; my boy, a Briton bom, 
Let him be ransom'd. . . , 
. . . He hath done no Briton lunn, 
Though he have serred a Soman. Save him, air, 
And spare no blood beside." 

Cymbeline is immediately struck by the boy's resemblance to 
some erewhile fi^miliaT face. At once his heart warms towards 
him. " Boy, thou hast looked tbyself into my grace, and art 
mine own." Not only does he give bim life ; he bids him, 
as a farther assurance of his favour, ask "what boon thou 

" Veo, though thon do demand a priooner. 
The noblest ta'en." 

Both Cymbeline and Lucius naturally think that he will 
demand the life of his master. But " alack," as Imogen says, 
"there's oUier work in hand." She has in the meantime 

Imogen. 271 

espied lachimo among the Boman prisoners, and notioed upon 
his finger what was once her best treasure, " the diamond that 
was her mother's,'' &nd which she had given to Fosthuinns at 
parting. She now remembers that it was not on the hand 
which she had lately thought her husband's. How had 
lachimo come by it ? Honourably or dishonourably ? This 
must before all things be explained. Cymbeline, the more 
he notes the boy, is the more drawn to him. He marks his 
perplexed looks, his fixed gaze upon lachimo. '' Speak ! " he 
says, " Wilt have him live ? Is he thy kin ? Thy friend ? " 
Imogen asks permission to tell him in private the reason 
of her conduct, and they step aside that she may do so. 
How intently she has been absorbed in watching lachimo 
is further shown by the circumstance that, though near her 
late companions of the cave, she has not observed them. 
They have been struck with amazement to see alive the 
Fidele whom they had left for dead. Belarius will not 
believe it is he: — 

<< Peace, peace I See further ; he eyes us not ; forbear. 
Creatures may be alike : were't he, I'm sure 
He would have spoke to us." 

Pisanio has no such doubts. " It is my mistress ! " he mur- 
murs in delight to himself. 

'* Since she is living, let the time nm on 
To good or bad ! '' 

And now Imogen comes forward with Cymbeline, who bids 
the seeming page stand by his side and make his demand 
aloud, commanding lachimo at the same time to answer him 
frankly on pain of torture. My boon, says Imogen, is, " that 
this gentleman may render of whom he had this ring?" 

272 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

Amazed at a question so strange, Fosthumus mutters to him- 
self " What's that to him ? " Eemorse has so far turned to 
penitence in lachimo, that he is ''glad to be constrained to 
utter " what " torments him to conceal " : — 

"By villamy 
I got this ring ; 'twas Leonatas' jewel, 
Whom thou did'st banish ; and (which more may grieve thee, 
As it doth me) a nobler sir ne'er lived 
'Twixt sky and gronnd." 

Bj villainy ? Tet how ? As yet Imogen is without a clue. 
But lachimo's next words, in answer to Gymbeline's demand 
for further explanation, must have sent all the blood back to 
her heart : — 

'* That paragon, thy daughter, 
For whom my heart drops blood, and my fSeJse spirits 
Quail to remember— Give me leave, I faint 1 " 

How dear a place that daughter really held in Cymbeline's 
heart, we see from his exclamation : — 

" My daughter I What of her ? Renew thy strength : 
I had rather thou shouldst live while nature will. 
Then die ere I hear more. Strive, man, and speak ! " 

On this, lachimo proceeds to recount the incidents of the 
wager, and of his visit to the Court of Britain, together with 
the details noted dovm in Imogen's chamber, that composed 
the ** simular proof " which made " the noble Leonatus mad." 

Imagine Imogen's state of mind during the recital! Oh 
the shame, the agony with which she hears that her '' dear 
lord " has indeed had cause to think her false ! All is now 
dear as day. The mystery is solved ; but too late, too late ! 
She remembers the supposed treasure in the chest, although 
lachimo does not speak of it. Then the lost bracelet ! How 

Imogen. 273 

dull she has been not to think before of how it might have 
been stolen from her ! Worst misery of all, Fosthumus has 
died in the belief of her gmlt. No wonder he wished for her 
death! What bitter hopeless shame possesses her, even as 
though all were true that he had been told! Only in the 
great revealing of all mysteries hereafter will Fosthumus 
learn the truth. But till then she has to bear the burden of 
knowing with what bitter thoughts of her he passed out of life. 

Ah, dear friend, as I write, the agony of all these thoughts 
seems again to fill my mind, as it ever used to do when acting 
this scene upon the stage. I wonder if I ever looked what I 
felt ! It is in such passages as these that Shakespeare sur- 
passes all dramatic writers. He has faith in his interpreters, 
and does not encumber them with words. No words could 
express what then is passing in Imogen's soul. At such 
moments Emerson has truly said, we only " live from a great 
deptli of being/' 

1 cannot conceive what Imogen would have done eventu- 
ally liad Fostliumus been indeed dead. But I could conceive 
the strange bewildered rapture with which she sees him spring 
forw£ird to interrupt lachimo's further speech. He is not dead. 
He has heard her vindication ; and she, too, lives to hear his 
remorse, his self-reproaches, his bitter taunts upon his own 
credulity ! From liis own lips her vindication comes : — 

*' The temple 
Of virtue was she ; yea, and she herself. 
Spit, and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set 
The dogs o' the street to bay me ! Every villain 
Be call'd Fosthumus Leonatos. ... Imogen ! 
My queen, my life, my wife I O Imogen 1 
Imogen, Imogen ! " 


2 74 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Unable to bear his anguish longer, and forgetting her page's 
disguise, she springs forward to throw herself into his arms, 
with the words, " Peace, my lord ; hear, hear ! " But he will 
neither look nor hear, and casts the " scornful page " — ^who, 
he thinks, is trifling with his grief — with violence away from 
him. Pisanio, who, next to Posthumus and Imogen, has 
been the most interested and wondering hearer of lachimo's 
stoiy, says, as he stoops to raise Imogen from the ground : — 

^ Oh gentlemen, help ! 
Mine and your mutress ! Oh, my lord Poethumos, 
You ne'er kill'd Imogen till now. Help ! help ! — 
Mine honoured lady I " 

When she returns to consciousness, Posthumus has scarce 
recovered from the bewilderment of his surprise, to find 
Imogen still alive, of whose death he had thought himself 
goilfy. But with what pangs and yearnings of the heart 
must he have heard her sweet reproach! — 

" Why did you throw your wedded lady from youl 
Think that you are upon a rock, and now 
Throw me again. \EnhnuA9q Jbtak 

Po^. Hang there, like fruit, my soul, 

Till the tree die ! " 

Imogen has meanwhile learned how innocent Pisanio was 
of all evil intention in regard to the drug which the queen 
had hoped would prove fatal to her, and how that intention 
had been frustrated by Cornelius giving to the queen, instead 
of a poison, 

" Certain stuff, which, being ta'en, would cease 
The present power of life, but in short time 
All offices of nature should again 
Do their due functions." 

Imogen. 275 

The loyal servant, we may be sure, was more than requited 
for the suspicion that had for a time rested on him, by the 
kind glances with which Imogen would greet him. But a 
last sweet moment is yet to come for her, when she hears 
the story of Belarius, and learns that those from whom she 
had received such timely help and kindness are indeed, what 
she had then wished them to be, her brothers. When Gym- 
beline says to her, "Oh, Imogen, thou hast lost by this a 
kingdom/' how true to all her generous impulses is her re- 
joinder ! A kingdom ! What is so poor a thing as a king- 
dom in her account ? " No, my lord ; I have got ivx) worlds 
by it ! " And then, as when the heart is very full of happi- 
ness, we ore afraid of giving way to emotion, or of trusting 
ourselves to speak of the joy we feel, she seeks relief in re- 
minding them, half jestingly, as she places herself betwe^i 
them, of the past: — 

" Oh, my gentle brothers, 
Have we thus met % Oh, never say hereafter 
But I am truest speaker. You call'd me brother. 
When I was but your sister ; I you brothers, 
When ye were so indeed. 
^ C^m. Did you e'er meet 1 

Arv, Ay, my good lortl. 

Qui, And at first meeting loved ; 

Continued so, until we thought he died. 

(7or. By the queen's dram she swallowed. 

Oym. Oh, rare instinct ! 

When shall I hear all through ?" 

When now Cymbeline hails Belarius as his brother, Imogen 
will not be behind in thankful recognition. She says — 

" You are my father too, and did relieve me, 
To see this gracious season." 

2 76 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Nor is Lucius forgotten; for when Cymbeline, in his exu- 
berant happiness, bids his prisoners be joyful too, " for they 
shall taste our comfort/' Imogen, as she stiU hangs upon the 
breast of Posthumus, turns to the noble Bomau with the 
words, " My good master, I will yet do you service." They 
are the last she speaks; and here I might well leave her, 
with the picture of her in our minds which Shakespeare has 
drawn for us in the words of her delighted father : — 

PoethumuB anchors upon Imogen ; 
And she, like harmless lightning, throws her eye 
On him, her brothers, me, her master, hitting 
Each object with a joy." 

Here, too, I believe, most people will prefer to leave her, 
as Shakespeare leaves her and all around her, both good and 
bad, happy: "Pardon's the word for all!" But you know 
how, in my letter on Portia, I said that I never left my 
characters when the scene closed in upon them, but always 
dreamed them over in my mind until the end. So it was 
with Imogen. Her sufferings are over. The " father cruel," 
made so by the "step-dame false," has returned to his old 
love and pride in her, — the love made doubly tender by 
remembrance of all that he has caused her to suffer. The 
husband — ah, what can measure his penitence, his self-abase- 
ment ! That Ae had dared to doubt her purity, her honour, 
— he who had known her inmost thoughts almost from 
childhood ! 

But Imogen — can she think of him as before ? Yes ! She 
is truly named the " divine Imogen " ; at least, she has so 
much of the divine " quality of mercy " in her, that she can 

Imogen. 277 

blot from her memory all his doubts, all his want of faith, 
as if they had never been. Her love is infinite — ^"beyond 
beyond." Hers is not a nature to do things by halves. She 
has forgotten as well as forgiven. But can Posthumus for- 
give himself? No! I believe, never. The more angel she 
proves herself in her loving self-forgetfulness, the blacker 
his temporary delusion will look in his own eyes. Imogen 
may surmise at times the thorn which pricks his conscience 
so sharply. Then she will quietly double the tender ways 
in which she delights to show her love and pride in him. 
But no spoken words will tell of this heart-secret between 

In her brothers Imogen has none but sweet and happy 
memories. These "two worlds" are an immense and un- 
looked-for gain to her life; they fill it with new thoughts, 
new sympathies. She has their future to look forward to, 
their present to help. One can see how their unsophisticated 
natures will go forth to her ; how the tender memory of the 
" rare boy " Fidele will give an added charm to the grace and 
attractiveness of the sweet sister-tie; how, in their quiet 
hours with her, they will repeat the incidents of the cave-life. 
Imogen will never tell them the whole of her sorrow there. 
She fears they would not forgive Posthumus. We can sup- 
pose, too, how, in this so new life to them, the young princes 
would be for ever seeking this sweet counsellor to guide them 
in the usages and customs of the Court life, all so strange to 
them. Men will ask from women what they would be shy 
of asking from one another. Think of the pleasant banter- 
ings there would be between them! How amused Imogen 
would be at their mistakes! How often, laughingly, she 

2jH Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

mtnAA haire to pat them t^^; and boir all diete thh:^ 
wooM draw tbem nearer to each other! 

Then, too, the old seedier Belaiins, — the tried retamer and 
friend I^aanio! What a group of loiii^ hearts about the 
hqppj princeas ! Cains Lndns also, in Borne, carryii^ in his 
memorj tender thoughts of his onoe ''kind, dnteons" page 
Fidele, together with the admiring respect he feels for the 
noble Imogen, Princess of Britain. And lachimo ! The time 
is to come when his repentance will flow from a still deeper 
sonrce. When at the Cknirt of Britain, he could not fedl to 
hear of all the miserj which he had wrought upon the noble 
lovers. With his own ears he heard the despair of Post- 
hnmns on learning the truth — his agony, his self-accusations, 
at the tihought that he had taken away the life of the maligned 
princess. But even bitterer pangs of remorse than he then 
felt will assail lachimo and never leave him, — for we find he 
is capable of feeling them, — when he learns that, before very 
long, the young noble life is quenched through what he had 
brought upon it. For quenched, I believe, it is. 

Happiness hides for a time injuries which are past healing. 
The blow which was inflicted by the first sentence in that 
cruel letter went to the heart with a too fatal force. Then 
followed, on this crushing blow, the wandering, hopeless days 
and nights, without shelter, without food even up to the point 
of famine. Wm this delicately nurtured creature one to go 
ttirough her terrible ordeal unscathed? We see that when 
food and shelter came, they came too late. The heart-sick- 
ness is upon her : " I am sick still — ^heart-sick." Upon this 
follows the fearful sight of, as she supposes, her husband's 
headless body. Well may she say that she is " nothing ; or if 

Imogen. 279 

not, nothing to be were better." When happiness, even such 
as she had never known before, comes to her, it comes, like 
the food and shelter, too late. 

Tremblingly, gradually, and oh, how reluctantly ! the hearts 
to whom that life is so precious will see the sweet smile which 
greets them grow fainter, will hear the loved voice grow 
feebler! The wise physician Cornelius will tax Ms utmost 
skill, but he will find the hurt is too deep for mortal leech- 
craft. The " piece of tender air " very gently, but very surely, 
will fade out like an exhalation of the dawn. Her loved ones 
will watch it with straining eyes, until it 

** Melts from 
The Bmallness of a gnat to air ; and then 
Will turn their eyes and weep." 

And when, as the years go by, their grief grows calm, that 

lovely soul will be to them 

** Like a star 
Beaconing from the abodes where the Immortals are ; '' 

inspiring to worthy lives, and sustaining them with the hope 
that where she is, they may, in God's good time, become fit to 
be. Something of tMs the " divine Imogen " is to us also. Is 
it not so ? 

This was my vision of Imogen when I acted her ; this is my 
vision of her still.— Ever, my dear friend, aflfectionately yours, 



North Walis, OtA, 1882. 



B S A L I N D. 

Brthttbiijo, StfUa^tr 1884. 

" But hMvanl; Roulind ! " 

E«pt, Bud ihKll k«ep me to Hm tad hBr own I 
8be WM kbore it — but to would not nnk 
Hy gue to urtli." 

—(klimbe't BirtJulajf, ict ii. >e. 1. 


illK not« in which yon thanked me with many 
kind words for sending you my letter up<ni 
Imogen, ended wiUt the following suggestitm, 
" And now you must give us Kosalind." I 
would fain think yon were moved to write 
these stimulating words by Bome not unpleasing remembrance 
of the way in which, to use BoBalind's own phrase, " I set her 
before your eyes, human as she is," in the days when onr 
kindred studies, — yours as a dramatist, mine as an interpreter 

284 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

of the drama, — first drew us into the communion which has 
ripened into a lifelong friendship. For whom would I try, with 
more alacrity, to execute a task so difficult, yet so congenial, 
than for the poet whose Lucy Carlisle, whose Mildred Tresham, 
and, last not least, whose exquisite Colombe are associated with 
the earliest recollections of my artist life ? 

With what sweet regret I look back to the time when, with 
other gifted men, — Talfourd, Bulwer, Marston, Troughton, and 
the rest, — you made common cause with Mr Macready in 
raising the drama of our time to a level not unworthy of the 
country of Shakespeare! How generously you all wrought 
towards this end ! How warmly were your efforts seconded 
by the public ! And yet I use the word " regret," because of 
the sudden end which came to all our strivings, when Mr 
Macready threw up the enterprise just when it seemed surest 
of success. It was an evil hour for my own art, and not less 
evil, I venture to think, for the literature of the drama. But 
for this mischance, we might have looked to you for that 
fuller development of your dramatic genius, which I can well 
believe you did not care to put forth, when you were no 
longer sure of a combination of trained actors and actresses to 
understand, and to make others understand, the characters 
you had drawn. Grateful as I am for what you have given 
to the world in many ways, I have always felt how great a 
loss the stage has suffered from the diversion into other 
channels of that creative dramatic power which you, of all 
our contemporaries, seem to me pre-eminently to possess. 
You may remember saying at a casual meeting in Hyde Park, 
when I was expressing my love and admiration for Pompilia, 
— " Ah, if I could have had you for Pompilia, I would have 

Rosalind, 285 

made the story into a drama." Your words made me very 
happy. How gladly would I have done my best to illustrate 
a character so finely conceived ! 

"And now you must give us Eosalind." Your words lie 
before me as I take up your letter again, after a long interval 
of suffering, which, for nearly two years, has made writing, 
and even continuous thought, impossible. They are my en- 
couragement to throw myself again into that world, so ideal 
yet so real, in which, with Bosalind, it was my delight to 
sojourn, and endeavour to put before you what was in my 
heart and my imagination when I essayed to clothe her with 
life. Ah me ! what it will be to me to enter again into that 
delicious dreamland out of the life in death in which, for so 
long, I have been " doomed to go in company with pain " ! 

I need not tell you, poet as you are, that a girl, so young as 
I was when first you saw my Bosalind, could not possibly 
enter into her rich complex nature in such a way as to do full 
justice to it. This is no more possible than it would have 
been for Shakespeare to have written, before the maturity of 
manhood, a play so full of gentle wisdom, so catholic in its 
humanity, so subtle in the delineation, so abounding in nicely 
balanced contrasts, of character, so full of happy heart, so 
sweetly rounded into a harmonious dose, as As You Like It 
His mind had assuredly worked its way through the conflicts 
and perplexities of life, within as well as without, and had 
settled into harmony with itself, before this play was written. 

In my girlhood's studies of Shakespeare this play had no 
share. Pathos, heroism, trial, suflTering — in these my imagina- 
tion revelled, and my favourites were the heroines who were 
put most sorely to the proof. Juliet, Desdemona, Cordelia, 

286 Shakespeare s Female C/iaracters : 

Imogen, I had brooded over until they had become, as it 
were, part of my life ; and, as you will remember, in the more 
modem plays, in which I performed the prominent parts, the 
pathetic or tragic element ahnoet invariably predominated. 
When, therefore, I was told by Mr Macready that I was to 
act Bosalind for my benefit at the end of a season, I was 
terrified. I did not know the words, nor had I ever seen the 
play performed, but I heard enough of what Mrs Jordan and 
others had done with the character, to add fresh alarm to my 
misgivings. Mr Macready, however, was not to be gainsaid ; 
so I took up my Shakespeare, determined to make the best of 
what had then to me all the aspect of a difiBicult and some- 
what irksome task. Of course I had not time to give to the 
entire play the study it requires, if Sosalind is to be rightly 

The night of performance came. Partly because the 
audience were indulgent to me in everything I did, partly, 
I suppose, because it was my benefit night, the performance 
was received with enthusiasm. I went home happy, and 
thinking how much less difficult my task had been than I 
had imagined. But there what a rude awakening met me ! 
I was told that I had been merely playing, not acting, not 
impersonating a great character. I had not, it seemed to my 
friends, made out what were traditionally known as the great 
points in the character. True, I had gained the applause of 
the audience, but this was to be deemed as nothing. Taken 
in the mass, they were as ignorant as I was, perhaps more so, 
as probably, even in my hasty study, I had become better 
acquainted with the play than most of them. It was very 
necessary, I have no doubt, and wholesome for me, to receive 

Rosalind, 287 

this lesson. But oh, what a pained and wounded heart I 
took with me that night to my piUow ! I had thought that 
upon the whole I had not been so very bad, — that I had been 
true at least to Shakespeare in my general conception, 
though, even as I acted, I felt I had not grasped anything 
like the full significance of the words I was uttering. 
Glimpses of the poet's purpose I had, no doubt, for I do not 
think I ever altered the main outlines of my first conception ; 
but of the infinite development of which it is capable I had 
then no idea. It was only when I came to study the charac- 
ter minutely, and to act it frequently, that its depths were 
revealed to me. 

As I recall the incidents of this first performance, I am 
reminded how little* the public knew of the disadvantages 
under which, in those days, one used sometimes to be called 
upon to play important parts. To an artist with a conscience, 
and a reputation to lose, this was a serious affair. In much 
the same hurried way I was originally required to act Lady 
Macbeth, and this before the Dublin audience, which, I had 
been told, was then in many respects more critical than that 
of London. After the close of the Drury Lane season, in 
June, I acted a few nights in Dublin with Mr Macready. 
Macbeth was one of his favourite parts, and to oblige the 
manager, Mr Calcraft, I had promised to attempt Lady 
Macbeth ; but in the busy work of each day, up to the dose 
of the London season, I had had no time to give the character 
any real thought or preparation. Indeed the alarm I felt at 
the idea of presuming to go upon the stage in such a character, 
made me put off grappling with it to the last possible moment 
The mere learning of the words took no time. Shakespeare's 

288 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

seem to fasten, without an effort, upon the mind, and to live 
there for ever. Mr Macready at our one rehearsal taught me 
the business of the scene, and I confided to him the absolute 
terror I was in as the time of performance drew near. He 
kindly encouraged me, and said, from what he had seen 
during the rehearsal, he was sure I should get on very welL 
At night, when it was all over, he sent to my dressing-room 
to invite me to take the call of the audience along with hinL 
But by this time the poor frightened " Lady " had changed 
her sleep-walking dress with the extremest haste, and driven 
away home. I was rather scolded the next day by Mr Mac- 
ready, who reminded me that he had asked me to remain, feel- 
ing assured the audience would wish to see me. This I had 
quite forgotten, thinking only of the joy of having achieved 
my fearful task, and desirous of running away from and forget- 
ting it as quickly as possible. 

I have no remembrance of what the critics said. But Mr 
Macready told me that my banquet and sleep-walking scenes 
were the best. In the latter, he said, I gave the idea of sleep, 
disturbed by fearful dreams, but still sleep. It was to be seen 
even in my walk, which was heavy and unelastic, marking 
the distinction — too often overlooked — between the muffled 
voice and seeming-mechanical motion of the somnambuliat, 
and the wandering mind and quick fitful gestures of a maniac, 
whose very violence would wake her from the deepest sleep,' 
— a criticism I never forgot, always endeavouring afterwards 
to work upon the same principle, which had come to me then 
by instinct. Another remark of his about the sleep-walking 
scene I remember. He said : " Oh, my child, where did you 
get that sigh ? What can you know of such misery as that 

Rosalind. 289 

sigh speaks of ? " He also told me that my first scene was 
very promising, especially the soliloquy, also my reception of 
Duncan, but that my after-scenes with him were very tame. 
I had altogether failed in " chastising with the valour of my 

The only criticism I remember on this my first attempt, 
besides Mr Macready's, was that of a most highly cultivated 
and dear lady friend, who said to me a day or two after- 
wards : " My dear, I will never see you again in that char- 
acter. I felt horror-stricken. Lear says of Cordelia, 'So 
young and so untrue ! ' I should say of your Lady Macbeth, 
' So young and yet so wicjced ! ' " 

Her antipathy was equalled by my own. To the last night 
of my performing the character I retained my dread of it ; so 
much so, that when I was obliged to act it in the course of my 
engagements (as others did not seem to dislike seeing me in it 
so much as I disliked the acting it), I invariably took this 
play first, so as not to have it hanging over my head, and thus 
cleared my mind for my greater favourites. Not that, in the 
end, I disliked the character as a whole. I had no misgivings 
after reaching the third act, but the first two always filled me 
with a shrinking horror. I could not but admire the stem 
grandeur of the indomitable will which could unite itself 
with " fate and metaphysical aid " to place the crown upon her 
husband's brow. Something, it seemed to me, was also to be 
said in extenuation of the eagerness with which Lady Mac- 
beth falls into his design, and urges him on to catch that 
crown " the nearest way." If we throw our minds into* the 
circumstances of the time, we can understand the wife who 
would adventure so much for so great a prize, though we may 


290 Shakespeare s Fcfnale Characters : 

not sympathise with her. Deeds of violence were common ; 
succession in the direct line was often disturbed by the 
doctrine that ''might was right"; the moral sense was not 
over-nice, when a great stake was to be played for. Setribu- 
tion might come or it might not ; the triumph for the moment 
was everything, and what we should call, and rightly call, 
murder, often passed in common estimation for an act of 
valour. Lady Macbeth had been brought up amid such 
scenes, and one murder more seemed little to her. But she 
did not know what it was to be personally implicated in 
murder, nor foresee the Nemesis that would pursue her 
waking, and fill her dreams with visions of the old man's 
blood slowly trickling down before her eyes. Think, too, of 
her agony of anxiety, on the early morning just after the 
murder, lest her husband in his wild ravings should betray 
himself; and of the torture she endured while, no less to 
her amazement than her horror, he recites to Malcolm and 
Donalbain, with fearful minuteness of detail, how he found 
Dtmcan lying gashed and gory in his chamber! She had 
faced that sight without blenching, when it was essential to 
replace the daggers, and even to " smear the sleepy grooms 
with blood ; " but to have the whole scene thus vividly brought 
again before her was too great a strain upon her nerves. No 
wonder that she faints. It was not Macbeth alone, as we 
soon see, whose sleep was haunted by the affliction of terrible 
dreams. She says nothing of them, for hers was the braver, 
more self -sustained nature of the two ; but I always felt an 
involuntary shudder creep over me when, before the banquet 
scene, he mentions them as affiicting himself. He has no 
thought of what she, too, is sufifering ; but that a change has 

Rosalind. 291 

come over her by this time is very clearly indicated by her 
words at the beginning of the same scene (Act iiL sc 2) : — 

" Nought's had, all's spent. 
Where our desire is got without content : 
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy, 
Than hy destruction dwell in doubtful joy," — 

words which must never be lost sight of by the actress, 
pointing, as they do, to the beginning of that mental unrest 
brought on by the recurrence of images and thoughts which 
will not " die with them they think on/' and which culminates 
in the " slumbery agitation " of the troubled nights that were 
quickly followed by her death, of which, in the sleep-walking 
scene, we have a glimpse.^ 

I acted Lady Macbeth, for the second time, during Mr 
Macready's management at Drury Lane; it was then also 
upon an emergency, caused by the sudden illness of Mrs 
Warner, the Lady Macbeth of the theatre. Not long after- 
wards I had to take this character, among others selected for 
a series of performances in Paris. This and Ophelia and Vir- 
ginia I had consented to play, to oblige Mr Mitchell of Bond 
Street, whose enterprise it was, upon the understanding that 
I was to act in other plays, which I selected, more congenial 
to myself. When I made my engagement with Mr Mitchell, 
Mr Macready was in America. On his return my plays were 
put aside, and others of his own were substituted. Mr Mit- 
chell came to me in great distress; and had I not felt for 
him, and given in to his necessity, the whole scheme would 
have collapsed, and all his labour and his expense would 
have been thrown away. 

1 See Appendix, p. 4S1. 


292 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Juliet I had only the opportunily of acting once, and that 
was on the last night. Borneo and Jrdiet had been, with 
other plays, cut out of the list by Mr Macready; but Mr 
Mitchell took it for his benefit, telling me that I should at 
least have the chance of acting one character of my own 
selecting. That was a happy night to me, for the audience 
went with me enthusiastically throughout the performance. 
The success, indeed, was so great, that Mr Mitchell was 
most anxious I should renew my engagement without Mr 
Macready ; but he could not get the use of the theatre for a 
longer period. I was told at the time that his disappoint- 
ment was attributable to the intervention of the Parisian 
actors, who appealed to the authorities to prevent the pro- 
longation of the English performances — a piece of jealousy so 
unworthy, that I found it hard to believe it^ 

Upon the whole, as things turned out, I had no great rea- 
son to regret the altered programme. It was a delight to 
play to audiences so refined and sympathetic, and to leam, 
from the criticisms of such men as Victor Hugo, Alexandre 
Dumas, Edouard Thierry, and Jules Janin, that I had carried 
them along with me in my treatment of characters so varied. 
I remember well how strange it seemed to them that the 
same actress should play Juliet, Ophelia, and Lady Macbeth 
— ^impressing each, as they were indulgent enough to say, with 
characteristics so distinct and so marked, as to make them 
forget the actress in the woman she represented. 

In what they said and wrote I had some compensation for 
the chagrin I naturally felt at being deprived by Mr Macready 
of the opportimity of personating before a Parisian audience 

^ See Appendix, p. 435. 

Rosalind. 293 

the characters which were considered more peculiarly my 
own. Mr Macready was a great actor, and a distinguished 
man in many ways ; but you will, I daresay, remember that he 
would never, if he could help it, allow any one to stand upon 
the same level with himself. I read once in Pwndiy that they 
supposed Mr Macready thought Miss Helen Faudt had H 
very handsome back, for, when on the stage with her, he 
always managed that the audience should see it and little 
else. But I must say that I was never so conscious of this 
unfairness with him, as with his very insulequate successor 
Mr Phelps, who always took his stand about two feet behind 
you, so that no face should be seen, and no voice be distinctly 
heard, by the audience, but his own. I remember finding 
this particularly unpleasant on the night I played Lady Mac- 
beth at the first performance given in honour of the Princess 
Eoyal's marriage. These performances took place at Her 
Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket, soon afterwards burned 
down. The stage was the largest in London, and fully one- 
third of it was occupied by the proscenium. I was then, as 
was my choice after my marriage, acting very rarely, and at 
long intervals. From want of continuous practice, therefore, 
I was not so sure of the penetrating power of my voice, 
especially in a theatre of such unusual size. At one of the 
rehearsals, kind Sir Julius Benedict warned me against speak- 
ing further back than the prosceniunL He said no voice, 
however powerful, could be heard behind it, and that the 
singers invariably planted themselves well in front. I men- 
tioned this to Mr Phelps, who was the Macbeth, and he 
seemed to agree to act upon the suggestion. But at nighty 
from his first entry, he took up a position far behind me, and 

294 Shakespeare's Fetnale Characters : 

kept it, wherever possible, throughout all my scenes with him. 
In my subsequent experience with him, I found this was his 
invariable practice. Tricks of this sort are as foolish as they 
are ungenerous, and could never enter the minds of those who 
desire to be real artists. When actors have told me, as they 
often have, that I was always so fair to act with, I could only 
express my surprise; for how can you hope to represent 
characters truly upon the stage unless mind is acting upon 
mind, and face meeting face, so that the words appear to flow 
in answer to the thoughts you see depicted there ? 

Forgive these gossiping details, and return with me to As 
Tou Like It. When I resolved to make a thorough study of 
the play, I little thought how long, yet how fascinating, a 
task I had imposed upon myself. With every fresh perusal 
new points of interest and new charms revealed themselves to 
me; while, as for Bosalind, "she drew me on to love her" 
with a warmth of feeling which can only be understood by 
the artist who has found in the heroine she impersonates that 
" something never to be wholly known," those suggestions of 
high qualities answerable to all the contingencies or trials of 
circumstance, by which we are captivated in real life, and 
which it is her aim and her triumph to bring home to the 
hearts and imaginations of her audience as they have come 
home to her own. Often as I have played Rosalind since, I 
have never done so without a fresh study of the character, nor 
without finding in it something that had escaped me before. 
It was ever, therefore, a fresh delight to bring out as best I 
could in action what had thus flashed upon me in my hours 
of meditation, and to try to make this exquisite creature 
as dear and fascinating to my audience as she had become to 

Rosalind. 295 

myself. In the very acting I learned much; for if on the 
stage you leave your mind open to what is going on around 
you, even an unskilful actor by your side — and I need not 
say how much more a gifted one — ^may, by a gesture or an 
intonation, open up something fresh to your imagination. 
So it was I came to love Bosalind with my whole heart; 
and well did she repay me, for I have often thought that in 
impersonating her I was able to give full expression to what 
was best in myself as well as in my art 

It was surely a strange perversion which assigned Bosalind, 
as at one time it had assigned Portia, to actresses whose 
strength lay only in comedy. Even the joyous, buoyant side 
of her nature could hardly have justice done to it in their 
hands ; for that is so inextricably mingled with deep womanly 
tenderness, with an active intellect disciplined by fine culture, 
as well as tempered by a certain native distinction, that a mere 
comedian could not give the true tone and colouring even to 
her playfulness and her wit. Those forest scenes between 
Orlando and herself are not, as a comedy actress would be 
apt to make them, merely pleasant fooling. At the core of 
all that Bosalind says and does, lies a passionate love as pure 
and all-absorbing as ever swayed a woman's heart. Surely it 
was the finest and boldest of all devices, one on which only a 
Shakespeare could have ventured, to put his heroine into such 
a position that she could, without revealing her own secret, 
probe the heart of her lover to the very bottom, and so assure 
herself that the love which possessed her own being was as 
completely the master of his. Neither could any but Shake- 
speare have so carried out this daring design, that the woman 
thus rarely placed for gratifying the impulses of her own 

296 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

heart, and testing the sincerity of her lover's, should come 
triumphantly out of the ordeal, charming us, during the time 
of probation, by wit, by fancy, by her pretty womanly way- 
wardnesses playing like summer lightning over her throbbing 
tenderness of heart, and never in the gayest sallies of her 
happiest moods losing one grain of our respect. No one can 
study this play without seeing that, through the guise of the 
brilliant-witted boy, Shakespeare meant the charm of the 
high-hearted woman, strong, tender, delicate, to make itself 
felt Hence it is that Orlando finds the spell which " heavenly 
Bosalind " liad thrown around him, drawn hourly closer and 
closer, he knows not how, while at the same time he has him- 
self been winning his way more and more into his mistress's 
heart. Thus, when at last Sosalind doffs her doublet and 
hose, and appears arrayed for her bridal, there seems nothing 
strange or unmeet in this somewhat sudden consummation of 
what has been in truth a lengthened wooing. The actress 
will, in my opinion, fail signally in her task, who shall not 
suggest all this, who shall not leave upon her audience the 
impression that, when Sosalind resumes her state at her 
father's court, she will bring into it as much gmce and dignity, 
as by her bright spirits she had brought of sunshine and cheer- 
fulness into the shades of the forest of Arden. 

To me, A% You Like It seems to be essentially as much a 
love-poem as Romeo and JtUiet, with this difference — that it 
deals with happy love, while the Veronese story deals with 
love crossed by misadventure and crowned with death. It 
is as full of imagination, of the glad rapture of the tender 
passion, of its impulsiveness, its generosity, its pathos. No 
" hearse-like airs," indeed, come wailing by, as in the tale of 

Rosalind. 297 

those " star-crossed lovers," to warn us of their too early tragic 
" overthrow." . All is blended into a rich harmonious music, 
which makes the heart throb, but never makes it ache. Still 
the love is not less deep, less capable of proving itself strong 
as death; neither are the natures of Orlando and Bo»eiIind 
less touched to all the fine issues of that passion than those of 
" Juliet and her Eomeo." 

Is not love, indeed, the pivot on which the action of the 
play turns — love, too, at first sight ? Does it not seem that 
the text the poet meant to illustrate was that which he puts 
into Phebe's mouth — 

" Dead shepherd, now I find thy eaw of might,— 
* Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight ?*" 

And this, too, the Phebe who but a few minutes before had 
smiled with scorn at her suitor's warning — 

" If ever (as that ever may be near), 
You meet in some fresh cheek the power of fancy, 
Then shall you know the wounds invisible 
That love's keen arrows make." 

Love at first sight, like that of Juliet and Bomeo, is the 
love of Bosalind and Orlando, of Celia and Oliver, and of 
Phebe herself for (Janymede. The two latter pairs of lovers 
are perhaps but of little account; but is not the might of 
Marlowe's saw as fully exemplified in Sosalind and Orlando 
as in the lovers of Verona ? 

Happily for them, and for us, there were no ancestral feuds, 
no unsympathetic parents, to step in and place a bar upon 
their affections. Whether or not Shakespeare believed his 
own words (A Midsummer NigMs Dream, Act i. sc. 1) — " The 
course of true love never did run smooth," who may tell ? I 

298 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

venture to think he no more held this creed than he did many 
of what are called his opinions, which, althoujj^ most apt in 
the mouths of his characters, were never meant to be taken as 
universally true. What, for example, can be more absurd than 
the too common habit of quoting, as if it expressed Shake- 
speare's personal conviction, the phrase, " What's in a name ? ' 
No man, we may be sure, better imderstood how very much 
there may be in a name. As Juliet uses it, the phrase is apt 
and true. In the rapture of her love, it was nothing to her 
that Bomeo bore the name of the enemy of her house. What 
were ancestral feuds to her, who saw in him " the god of her 
idolatry"? "His gracious self" was her all in alL What, 
then, was in his name ? But the phrase is not only meaning- 
less, but false, when cited, as it too often is, without r^ard to 
person, place, or circumstance. In any case, Shakespeare has 
given us in this play a supreme instance in disproof of Lyscm- 
der's sad axiom. The love in it does run smooth all through, 
with no more check or difficulty than serves to prove how 
genuine it is, and to bring two " true minds " into that perfect 
unison which is the only right prelude to marriage. Circum- 
stances, sad enough in themselves, have left both the lovers 
untrammelled by the ties of kindred. Orlando's father is 
dead. His elder brother defrauds him of his fortune, stints 
him of the training due to his rank, and hates him. Bosalind's 
father has been deposed from his dukedom while she was yet 
in early girlhood, and she has not known him for years. She 
owes no allegiance to her uncle, at whose court she has been 
detained. The wills of both lovers are thus entirely free, and, 
by the time that each has found out what is in the other's 
heart, the turn of events makes everything smooth for their 

Rosalind. 299 

marriage, after the intermediate period of probation, which is 
in itself happiness as nearly perfect as heart could desire. 

With what skill does Shakespeare at the outset of the play 
engage our interest for Orlando ! In vain his elder brother 
has tried to crush in him, by neglect, and by " keeping him 
rustically at home " without the liberal culture of a gentleman, 
the inherent nobility of his nature. His father had left him 
" but a poor thousand crowns." Good old Sir Rowland was no 
doubt fettered by the usage that makes eldest sons rich at 
the cost of the younger ; but he had charged Oliver " on his 
blessing" to breed Orlando well, feeling confident that this 
training only was wanted to enable him to carve out fortune 
for himself. How had Oliver obeyed the charge? ''You 
have trained me," Orlando tells him, ** like a peasant, obscur- 
ing and hiding from me all gentlemanlike qualities." But as 
he has grown into manhood, this state of things has become 
intolerable : — 

** The spirit of mj father grows strong in me, and I will no longir 
endure it : therefore, allow me such exercises as may become a gentle- 
man, or give me the poor allottery my &ther left me by testament ; with 
that I will go buy my fortunes." 

Why did Oliver treat him thus ? Why was it that, as he 

says, " he hates nothing more than he, and yet he knows not 

why " ? Was it that Orlando had been his father's favourite, 

as indeed he seems to have inherited the virtues of that good 

man ? '' my sweet master ! " says old Adam (Act ii sc. 3) — 

** you memory 
Of old Sir Rowland 1 

Why are you virtuous t Why do people love you f 
And wherefore are you gentle, strong, and valiant ? 
.... Your virtues, gentle master, 
Are sanctified and holy traitoii to yon.** 






300 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

No lack of '' inland nurture " was able to spoil a nature so 
manly, in which the best instincts of " race *' were paramount. 
We picture him handsome, courteous, modest, gallant, with 
the fresh cheek and the frank cordial eyes that speak of 
health, of active habits, and a genial nature such as wins 
men's hearts. Even Oliver is forced to admit that his efforts 
to spoil him have completely failed. " He's gentle ; never 
schooled, and yet learned ; full of noble device ; of all sorts 
enchantingly beloved ; and, indeed, so much in the heart of the 
world, and especially of my own people, who best know him, 
that I am altogether misprised." 

But of what avail is all this? Orlando has no career 
before him; all his powers are lying unused. He is in the 
saddest of all plights — that of a poor gentleman, full of noble 
aspirations, and without a chance of proving that he is not 
of the common herd. What wonder, then, that we see him 
dejected and out of heart, or that his words should vibrate 
with feeling, when he entreats Celia and Bosalind to forgive 
him for not yielding to their entreaty that he will not risk 
his life by wrestling with Charles, "the bony prizer of the 
humorous Duke " ? — 

« I beseech you, pxmish me not with your hard thoughts ; wherein 
I confess me much guilty, to deny so fair and excellent ladies anything. 
But let your fair eyes and gentle wishes go with me to my trial : where- 
in if I be foiled, there is but one shamed that was never gracious ; if 
killed, but one dead that is willing to be so ! I shall do my friends no 
wrong, for I have none to lament me ; the world no injury, for in it I 
have nothing ; only in the world I fill up a place, which may be better 
supplied when I have n^e it empty." 

Such words in the mouth of one so young, so obviously at all 
points a gentleman, could not fail to touch a gentlewoman's 


Rosalind. 301 

heart ; and in Kosalind's case they were all the more likely to 
do so, because in her own fortunes and her own mood at the 
time there was much to beget in her a sympathetic feeling. 
The world had not gone well with her, either. When her 
father waa deposed she was yet a girl, little likely, perhaps, to 
appreciate the change from a princess of the reigning to a 
princess of the dethroned house. She and her cousin Celia, 
the daughter of the man who dispossessed her father of his 
throne, had been '' ever from their cradles bred together," and 
her superior charm and force of character had so won upon 
the afifections of her cousin, that, as Shakespeare is at pains 
to tell us, through the mouth of Charles the Wrestler (Act i 
sc 1), when Eosalind's father was banished — "Celia would 
have followed her exile, or have died to stay behind her." 
The usurping Duke, whose only child Celia was, would not 
let Eosalind go into banishment with her father, for fear of 
the effect upon his daughter. " We sta/d her," as he says to 
Celia, " for your sake ; else had she with her father ranged 
along." But the beauty and gentle bearing of Bosalind, as 
the years went on, made her dear to the people, who had 
probably found out by this time that they had made a bad 
exchange in the "humorous Duke" for the amiable and 
accomplished ruler whom he hsul supplanted, — ^just as the 
retainers of Oliver had found that not in him, but in his 
youngest brother, "the memory of old Sir Rowland" was 
perpetuated. Celia's father, holding his place by an uncer- 
tain tenure, and therefore jealous of one who must be ever 
painfully reminding him of his usurpation, did not &il to 
observe this feeling among his subjects. It was dangerous 
to let it grow to a head ; and so we see that^ before the play 

302 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

opens, the thought had been present to his mind that Bosalind 
must stay no longer at his court As he tells his daughter — 

** Her very eilence, and her patience, 
Speak to the people, and they pity her." 

To a mind like his, full of misgiving as to his own position, 
the observation of this fact must have been an hourly tor- 
ment. But the old difficulty, the affection between Bosalind 
and his child, was by this time increased rather than dimin- 
ished. "Never two ladies loved as they do," says Charles; 
"Their loves," says Le Beau, "are dearer than the natural 
love of sisters," — both speaking the common voice of the 
people. And how united were their lives, we learn &om 
Celia herself — 

'* We still have slept together. 
Rose at an instant, leam'd, play'd, ate together ; 
And wheresoever we went, like Juno's swans, 
Still we went coupled and inseparable." 

But her father's feeling of distrust had of late been growing 
into one of antipathy. Le Beau, a shrewd observer in spite 
of all his courtier manner, and with a good heart, which the 
selfish habits of a court life have not wholly spoiled, sees 
pretty clearly the fate that \& hanging over Eosalind : — 

" Of late this dnke 
Hath ta'en displeasure 'gainst his gentle niece. 
Grounded upon no other argument 
But that the people praise her for her virtues, 
And pity her for her good father's sake ; 
And, on my life, his malice 'gainst the lady 
Will suddenly break forth." 

What the courtly Le Beau had so plainly seen to be the state 

Rosalind. 303 

of the Duke's mind was not likely to have escaped Bosalind's 
quick sensitive nature. She feels the cloud of her uncle's 
displeasure hanging over her, and ready to burst at any 
moment. She will not pain Celia ¥rith her forebodings, who 
is so far from surmising the truth, that the first lines she 
speaks are a gentle reproach to Bosalind for her want of 
gaiety ; to which Bosalind replies, " I show more mirth than 
I am mistress of; and would you yet I were merrier?" 
Then, throwing the blame of her present trouble upon an old 
sorrow, she adds: ''Unless you could teach me to forget a 
banished father, you must not learn me how to remember 
«my extraordinary pleasure." From Celia's reply, it is obvions 
she has no idea that Bosalind has fallen out of favour ¥rith 
the usurping Duke. " If my uncle, thy banished father, had 
banished thy uncle, the Duke my father, so thou hsulst been 
still with me, I could have taught my love to take thy father 
for mine/' Too well Bosalind knows that the obstacle to this 
pretty proposal lies not with herself, but ¥rith Celia's father. 
Still, she will hide from Celia the trouble she sees looming 
for herself in the not far distance. She will not show her 
"the darks undream'd of" into which their pleasant sisterly 
life is running. Why " forestall her date of grief " ? Why 
throw a shade over her cousin's happy spirit, or refuse any- 
thing to one so generous in her assurance, that she will atone 
for the wrong done by her father to Bosalind, given in 
such words as these? — 

" You know my father hatb no child but I, nor none is like to have : 
and, truly, when he dies, thou shalt be his heir ; for what he hath taken 
away from thy father perforce, I will render thee again in affection; 
by mine honour I will; and when I break that oath, let me torn 
monster: therefore, my sweet Rose, my dear Rose, be merry." 




1 . 304 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 





r ' 

A sad smile breaks over Bosalind's face as she replies^ — 
" From henceforth I will, coz, and devise sports." " Let me 
see," she adds, — ^Uttle dreaming how near was the reality, — 
" what think you of falling in love ? " To which Celia re- 
joins in a kindred spirit, — "Many, pr'ythee, do, to make 
sport withal: but love no man in good earnest; nor no 
forther in sport neither, than with safety of a pure blush 
thou mayst in honour come ofif again." And so these loving 
women prattle brightly on upon the lawn before the ducal 
palace, where presently an incident occurs which is to change 
the current of their lives. They have just heard from Le 
Beau of the murderous triumphs of the wrestler Charles, and 
would fain have escaped from seeing a repetition of his " rib- 
breaking." But before they can get away, the Duke arrives 
with his suite upon the ground to see the contest to which 
Orlando has challenged Charles, with a determination, very 
clearly shown, to lower the tone of that professional braggart, 
if skill and good heart can do it. 

At once the attention of the ladies is riveted by Orlando's 
appearance. " Is yonder the man ? " are the words that break 
from Eosalind. "Alas," exclaims her cousin, "he is too 
young ! yet he looks successfully." The Duke, judging from 
his looks that the odds are all against the young fellow, tells 
the ladies they will take little delight in the wrestling, and 
urges them to try to dissuade him from persevering in his 
challenge. Celia, as the reigning Duke's daughter, and also 
because she is probably not so much moved as her cousin, 
does most of the talking; but not a word, either of her 
entreaties, or of Orlando's refusal, escapes Bosalind. She 
could not but respect a resolution so manly, yet so modestly 

Rosalind. 305 

expressed, however she may fear the issue. Orlando's heart 
must have leapt within him when she says, "The little 
strength that I have, I would it were with you. Fare you 
welL Pray heaven, I be deceived in you!" Deceived she 
shall be, he is determined, for her words have given to his 
sinews the strength of steel! 

No thought now of leaving the ground. The ladies will 
see the fate of the young hero, and "rain influence" on him 
with their bright eyes. The wrestling begins — 

" i2of. excellent young man ! 
Cd, If I had a thunderbolt m mine, I can tell who should down." 

Charles is thrown, and carried off insensible. And now 
they are to learn who the young hero is. In answer to the 
Duke, he tells his name, adding that he is the youngest son 
of Sir Rowland de Bois. Here is the link between BosaUnd 
and Orlando. Sir Bowland has been loyal to the banished 
Duke — a sin the usurper cannot pardon in the son. 

" The world esteemed thy father honourable, 
But I did find him still mine enemy. 
.... Thou art a gallant youth : 
I would thou hadst told me of another father." 

Celia's heart revolts at this injustice. Turning to Bosalind, 

she says — 

" Were I my father, coz, would I do this ? " 

And what says Eosalind ? — 

" My father loved Sir Rowland as his soul, 
And all the world was of my father's mind : 
Had I before known this young man his son, 
I should have given him tears unto entreaties, 
Ere he should thus have ventured.* 

3o6 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

She needs not the prompting of her cousin to " go thank 
him and encourage him "; but while Celia finds ready words, 
Rosalind's deeper emotion suggests to her a stronger token 
of the admiration he has roused. She has taken a chain from 
her neck, and stealthily kissing it — at least I always used to 
do so— she gives it to Orlando, saying : — 

" Gentleman, 
Wear this for me, one out of suits with fortone, 
That could give more, bat that her hand lacks means.'' 

Here she pauses, naturally expecting some acknowledgment 
from Orlando ; but finding none come, and not knowing how 
to break ofif an interview which has kindled a strange emotion 
within her, she adds, " Shall we go, coz ? " Celia, heart-whole 
as she is, has no such difl&culty. " Ay. Fare you well, feiir 
gentleman," she says, and turns away. Eosalind is going 
with her. Meanwhile Orlando, overcome by a new feeling, 
\ finds himself spell-bound. 

I *^ Orl Can 1 not say I thank you ? My better parts 

Are all thrown down ; and that which here stands up 
Is but a quintain, a mere lifeless block." 

It cannot be that he should let them go thus without a 
' word! Eosalind at least will not believe it. What he 

I mutters faintly to himself must surely have been meant for 


" Boi. He calls us back : my pride fell with my fortunes ; 
' 111 ask him what he would. — Did you call, sir ?" 

But his heart is too full, his tongue too heavily weighted 
; by passion, to find vent in words. His action is constrained. 

Rosalind. 307 

He makes no answering sign, and with trembling lips she 
continues : — 

" Sir, you have wrestled well, and overthrown 
More than your enemies." 

This "more than your enemies" is very significant, and 
speaks plainly enough, though spoken as it would be with 
great reserve of manner, of the favourable impression which 
the young wrestler has made upon her. We may be sure 
that, but for his modest demeanour, Bosalind would not 
have allowed herself to confess so much. 

Celia amused, and disposed to rally her cousin about what 
looks to her rather more than "falling in love in sport," 
accosts Eosalind mockingly in the phrase she has used but 
a few moments before, "Will you go, coz?" "Have with 
you/' Rosalind rejoins, quite understanding the roguish 
sparkle in her cousin's eyes, but not deterred by it from 
giving to Orlando as she goes an earnest " Fare you well ! " 
But she is still slow to leave, hoping and longing for some 
words from his lips addressed to herself. When Celia takes 
her hand and is leading her away, Celia bows slightly to 
Orlando; but Bosalind in a royal and gentle manner curt- 
seys to him, wishing to show her respect for the memory 
of his father, the dear friend of her father, and also her 
sympathy with his fortunes. These she can give him, if 
nothing else. 

This scene, you will agree, needs most delicate touching 
in the actress. Bosalind has not much to say, but she 
has to make her audience feel by subtle indications the 
revolution that is going on in her own heart from the 

3o8 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

moment her eyes fall upon her future lover, down to the 
parting glance with which her farewell is accompanied. 
It is Juliet in the ball-room, but under conditions that 
demand a far greater variety of expression. There is no 
avowal of love; but when she lingeringlj leaves the stage, 
the audience must have been made to feel that in her case, 
as in Juliet's, her heart has made its choice, and that a 
change has come over her akin to that which has oome 
over Orlando. Only when she is gone can he find words 
to tell it. 

^ What paasion hangs these weights upon my tongue ? 
I cannot speak to her, yet she uig'd conference. 
poor Orlando, thou art overthrown ; 
Or Charles, or something weaker, masters thee." 

He is in this state of bewildered delight when Le Bean, 
whom I like much, and who, I am sure, was a &vourite 
with Bosalind, returns, and warns him not to linger near 
the court The sympathy of the bystanders for the brave 
young fellow has alarmed the Duke, and Le Beau's keen 
eyes have seen signs that bode no good to Sir Bowland's 

" Such is now the Duke's condition," 

he tells Orlando, 

" That he misconstrues all that you have done ; " 

adding, with a nice sense that a certain reticence is becoming 
in himself as a member of the ducal court, — 

" The Duke is humorous : what he is, indeed, 
More suits you to conceive than I to speak of." 

Rosalind. 309 

Orlando is in no mood to think much about his own safety. 

Besides, what is the court to him ? The all-important thing 

in his eyes is to know which of the two gracious ladies " that 

here were at the wrestling " is daughter of the Duke ? He 

has lived near the court, and must have already known the 

names of the two princesses. When, therefore, Le Beau 

replies, "The shorter is his daughter," he knows well that 

the name of the daughter of the banished Duke who left 

her chain with him is Bosalind. Only after he is satisfied 

of this does he bethink him of what danger may await 


^ Tlias must I from the smoke into the smother ; 
From tyrant duke unto a tyrant brother." 

But come what may, one image, we see, will ever be present 
with him, — that of " heavenly Bosalind." 

When soon after we see her with her cousin, it is no secret 
between them that the sweet poison of love is working no 
less strongly in her. She is surprised at herself, she tells 
us, because she finds herself unable to resist it. How charm- 
ingly is this brought before us 1 — 

"(7«/. Why, cousin; why, Rosalind; — Cupid have mercy! — Not a 
word ? 
Bm. Not one to throw at a dog. 


Gd, But is all this for your father ? 

Bo%. No ; some of it is for my father's child. 

• ••••.a. 

Gtl, Come, come, wrestle with thy afifections. 

Eo%, Oh, they take the part of a better wrestler than myself ! 

Gd, Oh, a good wish upon you ! ... Is it possible, on such 
a sudden, you should £Edl into so strong a liking with old Sir Rowland's 
youngest son ? 

3IO Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Bos, The duke my father loy'd his father dearly. 

del. Doth it therefore ensue that you should love his son dearly ? By 
this kind of chase, I should hate him, for my father hated his father 
dearly ; yet I hate not Orlando. 

Bob. No, 'fedth, hate him not, for my sake. 

del. Why should I not ? Doth he not deserve well I 

Bob, Let me love him for that ; and do you love him because I do." 

But now the storm bursts, of which Bosalind had lived for 
some time in apprehension. The Duke enters, his " eyes full 
of anger/' and his " rough and envious disposition " vents its 
long-pent-up jealousy upon her in the cruel words — 

'* Within these ten days, if that thou be'st found 
So near our public court as twenty miles, 
Thou diest for it" 

At this sentence the spirit of the princess must have grown 
warm within her. She knows her uncle too well to think of 
remonstrance. But what has she done to justify or to pro- 
voke this sudden outburst of his wrath ? Still she controls 
herself, and asks in a tone of entreaty — 

( " I do beseech your grace, 

Let me the knowledge of my fault bear with me ; 
}. If with myself I hold intelligence, 

{[ Or have acquaintance with mine own desires ; 

If that I do not dream, or be not frantic 
(As I do trust I am not), then, dear uncle, 
Never so much as in a thought unborn 
Did I offend your highness." 

His reply, "Thus do all traitors," &c., rouses the royal 
blood within her; gentleness gives place to righteous re- 
monstrance : — 

'* Your mistrust cannot make me a traitor : 
Tell me whereon the likelihood depends ? " 

Rosalind. 311 

His reply — 

" Thou art thy father's daughter ; there's enough "— 

brings the instant answer, in which years of silent endurance 
find a voice. She can bear any reproach to herself, but her 
loyalty to her father gives pungency to her answer : — 

'* So was I when your highness took his dukedom ; 
So was I when your highness bamsh'd him. 
Treason is not inherited, my lord ; 
Or, if we did derive it from our friends, 
Whaf s that to me ? My father was no traitor." 

In speaking this I could never help laying a slight emphasis 
on the last words. For what but a traitor had the Duke 
himself been ? The sarcasm strikes home ; but, recovering 
herself a little for Celia's sake, she adds more gently — 

'* Then, good my liege, mistake me not so much, 
To think mj poverty is treacherous." 

In vain Celia tries to shake her father's resolution, telling 

him that, when first he had kept back her cousin to be her 

companion — 

*' I was too young that time to value her ; 
But now I know her : if she be a traitor, 
Why so am I." 

Celia heeds not her father when he replies that she suffers in 
general estimation by the presence of Bosalind : — 

" She robs thee of thy name ; 
And thou wilt show more bright and seem more virtuous 
When she \a gone ! " 

And when he renews his doom of banishment, she proves, by 

312 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

her reply, that the yearning of the child had become the fixed 
resolution of the woman : — 

" Pronounce that sentence, then, on me, my li^e ; 
I cannot live out of her company." 

The angry tyrant, thinking these to be but idle words, and 
unable to conceive a friendship of this exalted strain, breaks 
away, saying — 

" You are a fool. You, niece, provide yourself : 
If you outstay the time, upon my honour. 
And in the greatness of my word, you die." 

Then comes a passage, than which what prettier picture of 
more than sisterly devotion was ever painted? — 

'' Cd, my poor Rosalind ! whither wilt thou go ? 
Wilt thou change fathers ? I will give thee mine. 
I charge thee, be not thou more griev'd than I am. 

i^s. I have more cause. 

OeL Thou hast not, cousin : 

Pr'ythee, be cheerful. Know'st thou not, the Duke 
Hath banish'd me, his daughter ? 

Bjoi. That he hath nut. 

Ctl. No \ hath not ? Rosalind lacks, then, the love 
Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one. 
Shall we be sundered ? Shall we part, sweet girl ? 
No : let my father seek another heir. 
Therefore devise with me how we may fly, 
Whither to go, and what to bear with us : 
And do not seek to take your change upon you, 
To bear your griefs yourself, and leave me out ; 
For, by this heaven, now at our sorrows pale. 
Say what thou canst, 1*11 go along with thee." 

Eosalind, touched to the heart, and feeling also that she 
could not live without Celia, accepts the generous offer 

Rosalind. 313 

without remonstrance. It told that Celia's love, never 
very deep for such a &ther, had been so completely alien- 
ated by his injustice to her cousin, as well as by his late 
ungenerous treatment of Orlando, that to have remained 
behind, subject to his "rough and envious disposition," 
would have been misery. When BosaUnd, half despond- 

ingly, says— 

" Why, whither shall we go ? *' 

her cousin's ready answer — 

'* To seek my nnde in the forest of Arden," 

opens up, we may conceive, a delightful vision of freedom and 
independence. But then the danger to them — 

" Maids as we are, to travel forth so far ! '' 
Celia is ready with her plan : — 

'' I^ put iDTself in poor and mean attire, 
And with a kind of umber smirch my hc/^ ; 
The like do you : so shall we pass along, 
And never stir assaUants." 

Rosalind was not likely to be behind her friend in courage. 
Besides, is not Celia sacrificing all for her, and has she 
not, therefore, a claim upon her for protection? So she 
betters Celia's suggestion: — 

" Were it not better. 
Because that I am more than common tall," 

(How glad I always felt here, that in this respect, at least, 
I was akin to the poet's Rosalind !) 

^ That I did suit me all points like a man ! " 

314 Shakespeare s Female Oiaracters : 

Her fancy quickens at the thought, and with that fine 
buoyancy of spirit, and play of graceful humour, of which 
we are anon to see so much, she goes on to complete 
the picture: — 

"A gallant curtle-axe upon my thigh, 
A boar-spear in my hand ; and (in my heart 
Lie there what hidden woman's fear there will) 
Well have a swashing and a martial outside ; 
As many other mannish cowards have, 
That do outface it with their semblances." 

Gelia enters with delight into the idea : — 

" (kL What shall I call thee, when thou art a man ? 

Bm, I'll have no worse a name than Jove's own page ; 
And therefore look you call me Ganymede. 
But what will you be call'd 1 " 

Aliena, Celia says, shall be her name, as having " reference 
to her state"; and now they have grown so happy at the 
thought of escaping from the trouble which seemed so 
terrible at first, that they can jest and play with the 
anticipation of the life before them. Touchstone, the 
court fool, shall be their compeuiion — 

" He'll go along o'er the wide world with me ; " 

says Gelia. He will be both a comfort and a protection ; and 

so with happy hearts they set about getting their "jewels and 

their wealth together" for the enterprise, which is to lead 


" To liberty, and not to banishment" 

While things have thus come to an extremity with his 
"heavenly Kosalind," a similar fate is overtaking Orlando. 
His brother, foiled in the hope that he would be killed by 

Rosalind. 315 

Charles, is determined to get rid of him by more desperate 
means. This Orlando learns from Adam, that ideal pattern 
of an old retainer, made doubly dear to us by the tradition 
that this was one of the characters which Shakespeare him- 
self delighted to impersonate. You remember, doubtless, 
Coleridge's words, as reported by Mr Payne Collier : " Great 
dramatists make great actors. But, looking at Shakespeare 
merely as a performer, I am certain that he was greater as 
Adam in A^ You Like It, than Burbage as Hamlet or 
Richard the Third. Think of the scene between him and 
Orlando, and think again that the actor of that part had to 
carry the author of it in his arms! Think of having had 
Shakespeare in one's arms! It is worth having died two 
hundred years ago to have heard Shakespeare deliver a single 
line. He must have been a great actor." I love to think so. 
Especially does my fancy gladly picture him in this scene, 
and find in doing so a richer music in the exquisite cadences 
of the lines in which the devotion and humble piety of that 
" good old man " are couched. Through his lips we learn how 
worthy in all ways to be loved is Orlando— a matter of fint 
importance in one who is to be beloved by such a woman as 
Rosalind. The devotion of Celia to the heroine of tiie play 
also finds its counterpart in that of Adam to the hero— and 
the plot derives a fresh interest from the introduction of a 
character, not only charming in itself, but most skilfully used, 
both in this scene and the few others in which he appears, to 
heighten the favourable impression of Orlando's character 
created by his demeanour in the earUer scenes. The savings 
of Adam's life enable the old man and his young master to 
seek better fortunes elsewhere, in hopes to light '' upon some 

3i6 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

settled low content." And so they, too, go forth, to reappear 
in that wondrous forest of Arden. 

Of the little world there we are given a delightful glimpse, 
before either Celia and BosaUnd, or Orlando and Adam, 
become its denizens. The second act opens in it, and shows 
us in Bosalind's father, the banished Duke, a character widelj 
different from her own, with none of her vivacity or force, 
though vdth something of her sweetness of disposition. Like 
Prospero, a scholarly man, his retiring and unostentatious 
habits have, as in Prospero's case, given scope for an am- 
bitious brother to rob him of his kingdom. like Ptospero, 
too, in this, "so dear the love his people bore him/' they 
would not have endured any attempt upon his life, so that 
the worst his brother dared had been to banish him. To one 
who had, — again like Prospero, — "neglected worldly aids/' 
dedicating the time, which ought more fitly to have been 
devoted to the duties of government, " to closeness, and the 
bettering of his mind," banishment has obviously been no 
great privation. Custom very soon has made the rough 
forest life " more sweet than that of painted pomp." Adver- 
sity has given him clearer views of men and taught him more 
of his own heart them he could have ever learned in "the 
envious court." His calm, meditative mind discovers in the 
scenes around him delightful incidents, reminding him by 
contrast of the turmoil and perils of his former state. He 

** Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks. 
Sermons in stones, and good in everjrthing," 

and has in fact translated 

I " The stubbornness of fortune 

Into 80 quiet and so sweet a style/* 

Rosalind. 317 

that any regrets for his lost wealth and honours are to all 
appearance dead. Unlike Prospero, he shows no bitterness 
against his usurping brother, and has no yearnings for the 
power of which he has been despoiled. The easy dreamy 
life of the woods suits his languid temperament. He likes 
nothing better than an argument with Jaques, whose cynical 
views of life excite and amuse him, though he has no sym- 
pathy with them. Amiable, but weak, separation from his 
daughter does not seem to have cost him much r^pret. He 
believes she is happy where he has left her, in the position and 
with the surroundings that become her birth, and which, in 
his banishment, he could not give her. And she, on the other 
hand, is no doubt aware that her presence is by no means 
essential to his happiness. Thus she has no temptation to 
make herself known to him, when they meet casually in the 
forest, and when to have done so would have broken up the 
sweet masking intercourse with her lover, in which she was 
by that time involved. 

When we see Bosalind first on the outskirts of the forest, 
footsore and weary, we have; scarce time to note how she tries 
to forget her own fatigue, and to comfort '' the weaker vessel," 
her still more weary cousin, " as doublet and hose ought to 
show itself courageous to petticoat." Her thoughts, and ours, 
are soon carried off in another direction by the dialogue be- 
tween the shepherd Corin and the young Silvius, in whose 
passion for the shepherdess Phebe, Bosalind finds the counter- 
part to her own haunting dreams about Orlando. What 
these have been her words show: "Alas, poor shepherd! 
searching of thy wound, I have by hard adventure found mine 
own." In this train of thought Bosalind for the moment 


Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

forgets weariness and hunger; but Cello, "faint almost to 
death " has to be thought for. Corin comes to their help, 
and pats them in the way of buying that cottage " by the toft 
of olives " OD the skirts of the forest, to which lovera of this 
play will always in their day-dreams find their way, leaving 
to the right " the rank of osiers, by the munnuring sta^am," 
that mingled its music with the songs of the birds and the 
rustling of the forest-leaves. 

In this delightful retreat one loves to picture these two 
charming women in the full enjoyment of their new-bom 
liberty, made more piquant by their little secret and by 
Bosalind's masquerading attire. For &U her manniwh drees 
and manner, there was, of course, something of a feminine 
character about the youth. "The boy is fair, of female 
fovonr," we are told later on, and, by contrast with Celia, 
"bestows himself like a ripe sister;" while Celia is "low, 
and browner than her brother." Again, Boealind's picture 
is drawn for us by Phebe, and what a picture it ial — 

" It u a pretty yoatli : — not tmj pretty ; — 
But, sure, Wb proud ; and jet his pride beoomea him : 
Hell make a proper man : the best thing in him 
la his complexion ; and faster dian his tongue 
Did moke offence, lua eje did heal it up. 
He is not tall ; jet for his jeais he's tall: 
Hia kg ia bat so-so ; and yet 'tis well : 
There waa a pretty redness in his lip ; 
A little ripei and more lusty red 
Than that mixed in hia cheek ; 'twas just the difference 
Betwixt the conatant red and mingled damaak." 

This is as she appeared to the rustic Phebe. Orlando, how- 
ever, has seen something finer and nobler in his " heavenly " 
Bosalind during their brief meeting. And uatorolly so, for 

Rosalind. 319 

she is then a lovely woman, and in a woman's sweeping dress 
her height and carriage would make her look fairer and more 
majestic So he ascribes to her 

*' Helen's cheek, but not her heart ; 
Cleopatra's majesty ; 
Atalanta's better part ; 
Sad Lucretia's modesty.'' 

Add to this fine health, fine spirits, a vivid fancy, the courage 
of a pure heart and a &ank generous nature, together with 
a voice rich, melodious, resonant, clear, that filled the ear 
and left its tones lingering there, and the picture will be 

To a nature such as hers, the woodland life must have 
given exquisite pleasure. In her rambles a vision of the 
young Orlando would often mingle with her thoughts, and 
not unpleasantly. His forlorn position, so like her own, his 
bravery, his modesty, had made a deep impression on her, 
and yet it was one she must have felt it would be foolish 
to cherish. They were now separated in such a way, that 
their paths were not likely to cross each other again. Their 
worlds were different. Her heart's fancy must therefore 
be put aside, forgotten. How long this inward struggle 
has been going on, Shakespeare does not tell us — it could 
not have been very long, for Orlando must have reached 
the glades of Arden soon after she did, — when roaming 
through the forest, she comes across a copy of verses hung 
(delightful defiance of local truth !) upon a palm-tree. Think 
of the throb at her heart, as she reads her own name run- 
ning through every couplet ! Still there are many Bosalinds 
in the world; and how should he, of whom she has been 


320 Shakespear€s Female Characters : 

dreaming, even know her name, — or how should he, of all 
men, be there in Arden? No, no, it must be mere coin- 
cidence; and yet the pulse is quickened, the heart-throb 
felt. Presently she sees Celia coming through the wood, 
and she, too, is reading verses in praise of this unknown 
Rosalind. Although she has listened to every word with 
panting eagerness, Eosalind affects indifference, taxing Celia 
with inflicting upon her hearers " a tedious homily of love." 
Before Celia answers, she sends Touchstone away, for she 
has just seen the author of this homily, and knows enough 
of her cousin's heart to be sure that her tone will alter the 
moment she learns who it is, and may thus betray her 
secret to the sharp eyes of "the roynish fooL" Untouched 
by love herself, and so seeing only the humorous side of 
the passion, Celia begins by tantalising Eosalind with the 
question, "Trow you who hath done this?" With the 
same air of affected indifference Eosalind replies, "Is it a 
man?" and at first thinks Celia is only teasing her, when 
she rejoins, "And a chain, that you once wore, about his 
neck ? " The tell-tale blood now rushes to Eosalind's cheek, as 
she exclaims, " I pr'ythee, who ? " It may be Orlando then after 
all, and yet how should it be ? Is Celia merely mocking her ? 
"Nay, I pray thee now, with most petitionaiy vehemence, 
tell me who it is." Celia unconscious of the torture of sus- 
pense in which she is keeping her cousin, parries all her 
questions. At last, after what to Eosalind seems an age, 
she owns that "It is young Orlando, that tripp'd up the 
wrestler's heels, and your heart, both in an instant." Eosa- 
lind will not believe her, but thinks her still mocking. 
" Nay," she says, " speak sad brow, and true maid." When 

Rosalind. 321 

Celia replies, " I' faith, coz, 'tis he ! " not even yet can such 
happiness be believed. Again the question must be asked; 
"Orlando?" The name we see by this had been often 
spoken between them. " Orlando ! " Celia answers, and this 
time gravely, for Bosalind's emotion shows her this is no 
jesting matter. 

Oh happiness beyond belief, oh rapture irrepressible ! The 
tears at this point always welled up to my eyes, and my 
whole body trembled. If hitherto Eosalind had any doubt 
as to the state of her own heart, from this moment the 
doubt must have ended. Overwhelmed as she is at the bare 
idea of Orlando's being near, the thought flashes upon her — 
" Alas the day ! what shall I do with my doublet and hose ? " 
but Celia has seen him — he perhaps has seen Celia — and 
that perplexing thought is put aside in her eagerness to learn 
full particulars about her lover. 

" What did he, when thou eaw'st him ? What said he I How look'd 
he? Wherein went he? What makes he here? Did, Kt cuk for met 
Where remains he ? How parted he with thee ? and when shalt thou 
see him again ? " 

These questions, all different, all equally to the purpose, 
huddled with breathless eagerness one upon another, yet 
each with different meaning and urged with varying intona- 
tion, must all — so ravenous is her curiosity — ^be answered 
" in one word." Well may Celia reply that she must borrow 
for her Gargantua's mouth first, for "to say ay, and no, 
to these particulars, is more than to answer in a catechism«" 
But Eosalind's questions are not even yet exhausted. She 
must learn whether Orlando knows that she is in the foreati 
and in man's apparel ? And then comes, to sum up all, the 


322 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

sweet little womanly question, "Looks he as freshly as he 
did the day he wrestled?" After some further banter as 
to the general unreasonableness of lovers, Celia mentions 
that she saw him under a tree, where he lay '^stretched 
along/' evidently having no eyes for her or any one, "like 
a wounded knight He was furnished like a hunter/' 

''£of. ominous ! he comes to kill my heart 

CeL I would sing my song without a burden : thou bring'at me out 
of tune. 

Boi. Do you not know I am a woman ? when I think, I must speak. 
Sweet, say on." 

At this moment Orlando is seen approaching with Jaques 
through the trees. A glance assures Bosalind that it is 
indeed he; but now the woman's natural shyness at being 
discovered in so strange a dress comes over her. '* Slink by 
and note him/' she says ; and withdrawing along with Celia 
to a point where she may see and not be seen, she listens, 
— with what delight we may conceive, — ^to the colloquy in 
which her lover more than holds his own, when the misan- 
thrope Jaques rallies him on being in love, and marring the 
forest-trees " with writing love-songs in their barks." On the 
assurance given by Orlando's answers that she is the very 
Bosalind of these songs, her heart leaps with delight Not 
for the world would she have Orlando recognise her in her 
unmaidenly disguise ; but now a sudden impulse determines 
her to risk aU, and even to turn it to account as the means 
of testing his love. Boldness must be her friend, and to 
avert his suspicion, her only course is to put on a ** swashing 
and a martial outside/' and to speak to him " like a saucy 
lacquey and under that habit play the knave with hinu" 

Rosalind. 323 

He must not be allowed for an instant to surmise the " hid- 
den woman's fear " that lies in her heart. Besides, it is only 
bj resort to a rough and saucy greeting and manner that she 
could mask and keep under the trembling of her voice, and 
the womanly tremor of her limbs. I always gave her " Do 
you hear, forester ? " with a defiant air, as much as to say, 
What are you, a stranger, doing here, intruding in the forest 
on those who are ''natives of the place"? With such a 
swagger, too, that Orlando feels inclined to turn round 
sharply upon the boy, as he had just done upon the cynical 
Jaques. But despite this swagger, verging almost upon 
insolence, Orlando at once feels something that interests him 
in the " pretty youth," for as he afterwards tells her father — 

" My lord, the fint time that I ever saw him, 
Methought he was a brother to your daughter." 

Once fairly launched on her delicate venture, Bosalind does 
not give Orlando time to examine her appearance too closely, 
or to question himself wherein this attraction lies. She en- 
gages him in brilliant talk of a kind such as he had never 
before heard, but which his natural aptitude and shrewdness 
enable him thoroughly to appreciate. 

How witty it all is, and how directly bearing upon the 
topic of his love, of which she wishes to bring him to speak 

^ Ro$, I pray you^ what is't o'clock ! 

OrL Yon should ask me what time o* day ; there's no clock in the 

Bm, Then there is no tme lover in the farest ; else sighing every 
minute, and groaning every honr, would detect the lazy foot of Time as 
well as a clock. 

3^4 Skakespeares FewioU Characters : 

OrL And wiij not the swift foot of Tone? Hal not dut h&OL w 

nptt » 

Rm, Bj no mgajnA, or. Tone ta^ela in direzs paces inth dx¥ers per- 
m teQ jvsa who Time amblei wttbAlr who Time tzote withdl, 
wk> Time gallops witiialf and who be staada tfill witfaaL 

OrL I pr'ythee, who doth he trot withal I 

Rat^ Mairjy he trots hard with a yomig maid, between the contract of 
her marriage and the day it is ■nl.»mTiT—<< If the intpnm be but & meht- 
B^^ 'Hme's pace is so hard that it seema the length of mwfat yeanL 

OrL Who amblea Time withal ! 

Rob, With a priest that lacks Latin, and a rich. man. that hath, not tbe 
gout ; for the one sleeps easil j because he cannot stndj, and the odier 
Ima merril J because he feels no pain. . . . These lime amWf witbaL 

OrL Who doth he gallop withal I 

Ro§, With a thief to the gallows ; tat thoo^ he go as softly as fisot 
can fiJI, he finds bimsfilf too soon there. 

OrL Who sUys it still withal I 

Rot, With lawjers in the Tscation ; for thej sleep between tena and 
term, and then thej perceiTe not how Time movesL* 

Strange that one who giyes himself ont as f oiest-bom, ** as 
the conej that yon see dwells where she is kindled," should 
possess so mnch knowledge of the world, so mnch fluency and 
polish of expression. But when Orlando gives vent to his 
surprise, by telling Granymede that his ''accent is something 
finer " than was to be purchased in so ** removed a dweUing," 
Rosalind is ready with her answer : '' I have been told so of 
many ; but, indeed, an old religious uncle of mine taught me 
to speak." She cannot, however, keep off the theme that is 
uppermost in her heart, as it is in Orlando's, so she con- 
tinues, — " one that knew courtship too well, for there he fell 
in love." And then, to throw Orlando off the scent of her 
being otherwise than the boy she seems, she adds : ** I have 
heard him read many lectures against it ; and I thank Heaven 
I am not a woman to be touched with so many giddy offences 

Rosalind. 325 

as he hath generally taxed their whole sex withaL" By this 
time Orlando's attention is thoroughly arrested. The note 
has been touched that is all music for him — ^Woman. For 
him at that moment there was but one in the world, and 
what " giddy ofifence " could be truly laid to her charge ? 
He will learn, however, if he can, some of the ''principal 
evils" imputed to her sex. When Bosalind replies with 
witty promptitude, "There were none principal; they were 
all like one another as half -pence are: every one fault 
seeming monstrous, till its fellow fault came to match it," 
he entreats her to recount some of them. What an opening 
here for her to put her lover to the test, to hear him say 
all that a loving woman most longs to hear from him she 
loves, while he is all the while ignorant that he is laying 
bare his heart before her! 

" No," she rejoins, " I will not cast away my physic, but upon those 
that are sick. There is a man haunts the forest, that abuses our young 
plants with carving ' Rosalind ' on their barks ^ — (she has just heard 
Jaques say he did so, but obviously says this merely upon his report), 
— '' hangs odes upon hawthorns, and el^es on brambles : all, forsooth, 
deifying the name of Rosalind : if I could meet that fancy-monger, I 
would give him some good counsel, for he seems to have the quotidian 
of love upon him." 

Poor Orlando, racked by what he believes to be a hopeless 
passion, would fain be helped to overcome the love-sickness 
that consumes him. With what secret joy Bosalind hears 
his avowal! "I am he that is so love-shaked; I pray you, 
tell me your remedy." But she is determined he shall say 
as much again and again — for what words are so sweet to 
her ear ? — and so she afifects to disbelieve him, telling him 
he has none of her uncle's marks upon him, — ^the lean cheek, 

326 Shakespeare s Female Characters: 

the blue eye and sunken, the beard n^lected the hose tin- 
gartered, the bonnet unhanded, the sleeve unbuttoned, the 
general air of ''careless desolation," which are supposed to 
denote the man in love. " But you are no such man ; yon 
are rather point-device in your accoutrements; as loving 
yourself rather than seeming the lover of any other/' His 
earnest protest, ''Fair youth, I would I could make thee 
believe I love," only provokes the further teasing remark, 
"Me believe it! you may as soon make her you love 
believe it;" and then, incapable of resisting the humour of 
the situation, she adds, "which, I warrant, she is apter to 
do than to confess she does: that is one of the points in 
which women still give the lie to their consciences/' She 
sees that Orlando is rather dashed by this sarcastic remark, 
possibly pained, but she knows she holds the remedy for 
his pain in her own hands; and she puts him at his ease 
agam by asking, with a softened voice— 

" But, in good aootli, are you lie tliat hangs the verses on the trees, 
wherein Rosalind is so admired ? 

OrL I swear to thee, youth, by the white hand of Rosalind, I am that 
he, that unfortunate he. 

Bm, But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak ? 

OrL Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much." 

Oh, how intently has she watched for that answer ! with 
what secret rapture heard it ! But he must discern nothing 
of this. So, turning carelessly away, and, smiling inwardly 
to think that she is herself an illustration of what she says, 
she exclaims — 

" Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark 
house and a whip as madmen do : and the reason why they are not so 
punished and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers 
are in love too." 

Rosalind. 327 

But now, coining back to the plan which has sprung up 
in her heart for riveting still closer Orlando's devotion, she 
adds — 

" Tet I profess curiog it by coonaeL 

OrL Did you ever cure any so 1 

Bm, Yes, one, and in this manner. He was to imagine me his love, 
hiB nustress ; and I set him every day to woo me : At which time would 
I, being but a moonish youth, grieve, be effeminate, changeable, longing, 
and liking, proud, fantastical, apish, shallow, inconstant, full of tears, 
full of smiles, for every passion something and for no passion truly 
anything, as boys and women are for the most part cattle of this colour ; 
would now like him, now loathe him ; then entertain him, and then 
forswear him ; . . . that I drave my suitor from his mad humour of 
love to a living humour of madness ; which was to forswear the full 
stream of the world and to live in a nook merely monastic. And thus I 
cured him ; and this way will I take upon me to wash your liver as 
clean as a sound sheep's heart, that there shall not be one spot of love 

In the range of Shakespearian comedy there is probably no 
passage that demands more subtle treatment in the actress 
than this. Rosalind's every faculty is quickened by delight, 
and this delight breaks out into a witty picture of all the 
wayward coquettishness that has ever been imputed to her 
sex. She rushes into this vein of humorous detraction, in 
order to keep up the show of curing Orlando of his passion 
by a picture of some of their "giddy oflFences." Note the 
aptness, the exquisite suggestiveness and variety of every 
epithet, which, woman as she is, she is irresistibly moved to 
illustrate and enforce by suitable changes of intonation and 
expression. But note also, so ready is her intelligence, that 
she does not forget to keep up the illusion about herself, by 
throwing in the phrase, that " boys as well as women are for 
the most part cattle of this colour." All the plajrfulness, the 

328 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

wit, the sarcasm bubble up, sparkle after sparkle, with bewilder- 
ing rapidity. Can we wonder they should work a charm upon 
Orlando ? What, he thinks, might a gifted creature like this 
not do? What if the boy were indeed able to accomplish what 
he has said he could ? No, that would be to rob life of all that 
made life worth ; so he replies, "I would not be cured, youth!" 
And yet there is a certain mysterious fascination which draws 
him on ; and when this strangely imperious youth rejoins, with 
an air of unhesitating confidence, " I would cure you, if you 
would but call me Rosalind " — ^how she would linger on the 
name ! — " and come every day to my cote, and woo me ; " he 
can but answer — " Now, by the faith of my love, I will : tell 
me where it is." She will show it to him at once, and by the 
way he shall "tell her where in the forest he lives." And 
when to her invitation, " Will you go ? " he replies, ** With all 
my heart, good youth," she begins the remedial lesson by 
telling him archly, with a playful smile that goes to his 
heart — "Nay, you must call me Eosahnd." And turning 
to Celia, who must have seen with no small amazement the 
imexpected development of her cousin's character in this 
dialogue, calls to her to go home with them. 

I need scarcely say how necessary it is for the actress in 
this scene, while carrying it through with a vivacity and dash 
that shall avert from Orlando's mind every suspicion of her 
sex, to preserve a refinement of tone and manner suitable to 
a woman of Rosalind's high station and cultured intellect; 
and by occasional tenderness of accent and sweet persuasive- 
ness of look to indicate how it is that, even at the outset, she 
establishes a hold upon Orlando's feelings, which in their 
future intercourse in the forest deepens, without his being 

Rosalind. 329 

sensibly conscious of it, his love for the Bosalind of his 
dreams. I never approached this scene without a sort of 
pleasing dread, so strongly did I feel the difficulty and the 
importance of striking the true note in it. Tet, when once 
engaged in the scene, I was borne along I knew not how. The 
situation, in its very strangeness, was so delightful to my 
imagination, that from the moment when I took the assur- 
ance from Orlando's words to Jaques, that his love was as 
absolute as woman could desire, I seemed to lose myself in 
a sense of exquisite enjoyment. A thrill passed through me ; 
I felt my pulse beat quicker ; my very feet seemed to dance 
under me. That Bosalind should forget her first woman's 
fears about her " doublet and hose " seemed the most natural 
thing in the world. Speak to Orlando she must at any 
hazard. But oh, the joy of getting him to pour out all his 
heart, without knowing that it was his own Bosalind to 
whom he talked,— of proving if he were indeed worthy of 
her love, and testing, at the same time, the depth and 
sincerity of her own devotion! The device to which she 
resorted seemed to suggest itself irresistibly; and, armed 
with Shakespeare's words, it was an intense pleasure to try 
to give expression to the archness, the wit, the quick ready 
intellect, the ebullient fancy, with the tenderness underlying 
all, which give to this scene its transcendent chann. Of all 
the scenes in this exquisite play, while this is the most 
wonderful, it is for the actress certainly the most difficult. 
How mistaken, I think, is the opinion of those who main- 
tain that Shakespeare was governed, in drawing his heroines, 
by the fact that they were acted by boys, and that this was 
one of his reasons for choosing stories in which they had to 


330 Shakespeare* s Female Characters: 

aasome male attire ! As if Imogen, Yiola^ and Bosalind were 
not ''pnie women" to the very ooie; as if, indeed, this were 
not the secret of the way in which they win the hearte of 
those whom they meet Their disguise is never snrmiBed, 
not even by their own sex, for Olivia falls passionate]^ in 
love with Viola, and Phebe with Bosalind ; and how markedly 
is Shakespeare's genius shown by the difference of the way 
this circumstance is handled in the case of each! Viola, 
gentle, self-sacrificing, generous, but with no spark of the 
heroic in her nature, sees the humorous absurdity of being 
wooed by a lady; but she is more perplexed than amused 
by it She neither struggles against her own unrequited love, 
nor makes an effort to win requital for it But, if placed in 
Viola's situation, Bosahnd's mother-wit and high spirit would, 
I fancy, have enabled her to extricate herself handsomely. 
At all events, if, like Viola, she had &llen in love with the 
Duke Orsino, the attractions of Olivia which fosdnated that 
dreamy personage would have grown daily fainter before the 
address, and vivacity, and bright intelligence of such a woman 
as Bosalind. By the time the discovery of her sex was made, 
his heart would have gone clean out of him, for he was 
capable of loving a noble woman nobly. How fine is his 
phrase, " Heaven walks on earth " (Act v. sc. 1), as he sees 
Olivia approaching ! It would have been he, and not Viola, 
to whose lips words laden with passion would have risen on 
discovering her sex, — he that would have clasped her to his 
breast with irrepressible eagerness, instead of coldly giving 
her his hand, with the chilling request — 

" Give me thy hand, 
And let me see thee in thy woman's weeds." 

Rosalind. 331 

Rosalind was not one to care for being loved in this stately 
fashion, nor indeed for being taken up on any terms at second 
hand. In her eyes, one of the chief attractions of Orlando 
was that his love was a first love, unsophisticated by any 
mixture of personal vanity or of selfish interest. His feeling, 
as he thinks of her, she sees, is that of Helena in AlVs Well 

that Ends Well— 

" *Twere all one, 
That I should love a bright particular star 
And think to wed it, she is so above me." 

And this feeling is made more precious to Rosalind by her 
own consciousness of the complete conquest he has made of 
her own heart. Very woman as she is, she cannot help show- 
ing this in the next scene in which we see her. Orlando has 
not kept a promise to be with her that mormng, and she is 
" in the very height of heart-heaviness " in consequence. In 
vain Celia tries to laugh her out of her depression. To Celia 
his absence is easily to be accoimted for. She has learned 
he is in attendance on the banished Duke, and that, being so, 
he is not master of his own time. But not till she has teased 
Rosalind by maintaining that " there is no truth in him," that 
she does not think he is in love, and that, " besides, the oath 
of a lover is no stronger than the word of a tapster : they are 
both the confirmer of false reckonings," does she suggest this 
explanation. In this Rosalind manifestly finds some ease, 
and turns from the subject to tell Celia — 

'^ I met the Duke yesterday, and had much question with him. He 
asked me of what parentage I was ; I told him, of as good as he ; so he 
laughed, and let me go. Bat what talk we of fathers, when there is 
such a man as Orlando ? " 



332 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

What a world of passionate emotion is concentrated in that 

last sentence, and how important it is to bear this in mind in 

the subsequent scenes with Orlando ! 

; At this point Bosalind's thoughts are turned into a new 

« channel by the arrival of old Corin, who comes to tell them 

that " the shepherd that complained of love," after whom they 
have often inquired, is now with "the proud disdainful 
shepherdess that was his mistress;" and that if they 

" Will see a pageant truly play*d, 
Between the pale complexion of true love 
And the red glow of scorn and proud disdain," 

he will take them to the place. Bosalind jumps at the sug- 
gestion, for 

" The sight of lovers feedeth those in love. 
Bring us to this sight, and you shall say, 
I'll prove a busy actor in their play." 

Herself loving deeply, and prizing a good man's love as her 
best treasure, she is in no mood to be tolerant of the scornful 
cruelty shown by Phebe to Silvius, of which in the scene that 
ensues she is an unseen witness. At the same time, his love- 
sickness, which has taken all the manhood out of him, inspires 
her with something not very far from contempt. But the 
poor fellow pleads his cause well. His passion is genuine, 
and Iiis words are echoes of something in her own heart : — 

" dear Phebe, 
If ever (as that ever may be near) 
You meet in some fresh cheek the power of fancy, 
Then shall you know the wounds invisible 
That love's keen arrows make.'* 

Rosalind. 333 

They merited at least a gentle answer; and when Phebe 

heartlessly replies — 

'' But till that time, 
Come thou not near me : and when that time comes, 
Afflict me with thy mocks, pity me not ; 
As, till that time, I shall not pity thee " — 

Kosalind can restrain herself no longer, and breaks in upon 
the speakers. In what ensues she seems to me to show 
something of that' quality, characteristic of princely blood 
and training, which, without directly claiming deference, 
somehow conmiands it, and which is frequently exemplified 
in the progress of the play : — 

" JBoi. And why, I pray you ? Who might be your mother. 
That you insult, exult, and all at once, 
Over the wretched ? What though you have some beauty, 
(As, by my faith, I see no more in you. 
Than without candle may go dark to bed,) 
Must you be therefore proud and pitiless ? " 

How great must have been the charm of the seeming boy, 
when the haughty rustic beauty does not fire up at such a 
rebuke as this I Yet there she stands, breathless, all eyes, all 
admiration. Bosalind continues : — 

" Why, what means this 1 Why do you look on me ? 
I see no more in you than in the ordinary 
Of nature's sale-worL 'Od's my little life, 
I think she means to tangle my eyes too ! 
No, Mth, proud mistress, hope not after it : 
Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair, 
Your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream, 
That can entame my spirits to your worship" 

With her wonted readiness of wit she follows up this vivid 

334 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

picture of commonplace beauty by words that, while giving 
encouragement to Silvius, are cleverly designed to take some 
of Phebe's conceit out of her : — 

" You foolish shepherd, wherefore do yon follow her ? . . . 
You are a thousand times a properer man 
Than she a woman : 'tis such fools as you 
That make the world full of ill-favoured children : 
'Tis not her glass, but you, that flatters her. . . . 
But, mistress, know yourself: down on your knees, 
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man's love : 
For I must tell you friendly in your ear, — 
Sell when you can : you are not for all markets." 

Then with a softer tone, almost entreatingly — 

'* Cry the man mercy ; love him ; take his offer : . . . 
So take her to thee, shepherd : fare you welL" 

But Phebe has by this time " felt the power of fancy " too 
strongly to let the interview break ofiF so soon* " Sweet 
youth," she exclaims, as she runs after to detain him, 

'* I pray yon, chide a year together ; I had rather hear you chide than 
this man woo.'' 

The situation is becoming too absurd. The tables have in- 
deed been turned upon Phebe. With all her sense of humour 
SosaUnd, as a woman, could not but feel some pity for her, 
as Viola does for Olivia. She must be told at once, and in 
unmistakable terms, to put all thought of Ganymede out of 
her head : — 

** Bm, I pray you, do not fall in love with me, 
For I am falser than vows made in wine. 
Besides, I like you not. 

Rosalind. 335 

Will yoa go, sbtert Sh^heid, plj her hud. 
Come, sister. ShepherdesB, look on him better. 
And be not proud : thou^ all the world conld see. 
None conld be so abused in sight as he." 

I have already called attention to the picture of the boy 

Granjmede drawn for us by Phebe, after he has left her. It 

is not merely the beauty of his person that strikes her ; she 

feels the distinction of his bearing, — the nnoonsdons imperi- 

onsness of Bosalind, the princess — ^"Snre, he's proad; and 

yet his pride becomes him " — and how it is blended with a 

strange tenderness, that tempers the severity of his rebuke 

to herself, for 

"• Faster than his tongue 

Did make oflenoe, his eye did heal it up." 

In this scene, as elsewhere, the woman's heart modifies the 
keenness of Bosalind's wit, and the combination makes her 
ascendanqr over all those she cares for more complete. 

But when we see her next, at the opening of the fourth 
act, in colloquy with Jaques, her intellect alone is called into 
play, and the cynic comes off second-best in the encounter. 
He, too, feels the attraction of the young Ghmymede, and 
would fain be intimate with him; — '^I prithee, pretty 
youth, let me be better acquainted with thee." To Bosalind 
this patronismg address would be fax from agreeable. 1^ 
a natural instinct she recoils, as we have previously seen 
Orlando recoil, from the society of a man who has exhausted 
the zest for life in years of sensual indulgence, and who sees 
only the dark side of human nature and of the world, because 
he has squandered his means and used up his sensations. She 
has heard of him and lus morbid moralisings, and so replies — 

" They say you axe a melancholy feUow." 



336 Shakespear^s Female Characters : 


t Her healthy oommon-seiifle is roosed bjr his answer, ^tlimt 

he is so, and that he loves it better than laughing," and she 

^Those thst tie in the extremity of either tie abomimble fisllowB ; 
ftnd betray themielrefl to ereiy modem oensnre wane than dnmkudL 
I . Joq. Why, 'tis good to be sad and say mrthing. 

' Bm. Why, then, 'tis good to be a post" 

Jaques then runs off into his famous definition of the varieties 
of melancholy, winding up — self-complacent egotist as he is, 
always referring everything to himself and his own perverted 
experiences — ^with the intimation, that "indeed the sundry 
contemplation of his travels, in which his often rumination 
wraps him, is a most humorous sadness." This answer in 
no way increases Bosalind's respect "A traveller I ** she 
exclaims — 

" By my £aith, you have great reason to be sad : I fear you have sold 
your own lands to see other men's ; then, to have seen much and to 
hare nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands. 

J(ui, Yes, I have gained my experience. 

22of. And your experience makes you sad : I had rather have a fool 
to make me merry, than experience to make me sad ; and to travel for 
it too!" 

Jaques, unused to be picked to pieces in this way, — for the 
people about the baniahed Duke, though amused by this 
moping philosopher's churlish temper, seem to stand rather 
in awe of it, — ^is glad to take the opportunity afforded by 
Orlando's appearance to escape from "the pretty youth," 
whom he has found to be so unexpectedly formidable. But 
Bosalind cannot refrain from sending after him some further 
shafts from her quiver : — 

Rosalind. 337 

*' Farewell, Monsieur Traveller : look you lisp and wear strange suits, 
disable all the benefits of your own country, be out of love witb your 
nativity, and almost chide Heaven for making you that countenance yon 
are, or I will scarce think you have swum in a gondola. ** 

Not till she has seen Jaques fairly out of hearing, does she 
turn to Orlando, who has by this time thoroughly learned the 
first lesson she had set him. He accosts her throughout the 
scene as "dear Bosalind," "fair Bosalind," and never trips 
into speaking to the boy otherwise than as the lady of his 
love. His visits to the sheepcote, we see, have been fre^ 
quent, but the promised cure has clearly made no progress. 
The feminine waywardness with which the boy menaced him 
has served only to establish a sweet, and to him, mysterious 
control over his heart and ¥rilL Again he has failed in 
coming at the appointed hour. See how she punishes him 


for the little pang of disappointment he has caused her 

'* Why, how now, Orlando ! where have yon been all this while ? Yon 
a lover ! An you serve me such another trick, never come in my sight 

Orl, My fair Rosalind, 1 come within an hour of my promise. 

Ro%, Break an hour's promise in love ! He that will divide a minute 
into a thousand parts, and break but a part of the thousandth part of a 
minute in the affairs of love, it may be said of him that Cupid hath 
clapped him o' the shoulder, but Til warrant him heart-whole. 

Ori, Pardon me, dear Rosalind. 

Uo%, Nay, an you be so tardy, come no more in my sight : 1 had as 
lief be wooed of a snail. 

(hi. Of a snail? 

Bm, Ay, of a snail ; for though he comes slowly, he carries his house 
on his head ; a better jointure, 1 think, than you make a woman." 

And now we are to see how Rosalind carries out in practice 
her own suddenly devised fiction of the way she once cured 


338 Shakespeare 5 Female C/iaracters : 

a lover of his passion — by being effeminate, changeable, '' full 
of tears, full of smiles, would now like him, now loathe him, 
now entertain, now forswear him." She throws aside her 
first mood of pouting and banter. Her own heart is brimful 
of happy love, and only by variety of mood and volubility 
of utterance can she keep down its emotion. "Come, woo 
me!" she exclaims. Seeing Orlando taken aback by the 
suddenness of this invitation, she repeats it: "Woo me; for 
now I am in a holiday humour, and like enough to consent." 
StiU he hangs back ; but she is not to be foiled in her deter- 
mination to make him play the lover, so she adds — " What 
would you say to me now, an I were your very very Bosa- 
lind ? " Tliis brings from liim the laughing answer, " I would 
kiss before I spoke." " Nay," she rejoins, " you were better 
speak first, and when you were gravelled for lack of matter, 
you might take occasion to kiss." After some more h<idina>ge 
on this theme, Rosalind turns suddenly upon Orlando with 
the question — '' Am not I your Bosalind ? " and as she does 
so, her voice, I fancy, vibrates with feeling she finds it hard 
to conceal. But this vein is dangerous; and when Orlando 
answers, " I take some joy to say you are, because I would be 
talking of her," she dashes off again into her playful mocking 
mood, with the words, " Well, in her person I say I will not 
have you." This elicits from Orlando the very avowal for 
which she yearns — " Then in mine own person I die ! " But 
the opening thus offered to her to profess a disbelief, which 
she does not feel, in the sincerity of all such protestations is 
not to be lost, and her fancy revels in throwing ridicule upon 
the model heroes of romantic love : — 

" No, faith, die l>y attorney. The poor world w almost six thousand 

Rosalind. 339 

yean old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own 
person, videlicetf in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains dashed oat with 
a Grecian club ; yet he did what he could to die before ; and he is one 
of the patterns of love. Leander, he would have lived many a fair year 
though Hero had turned nun, if it had not been for a hot midsummer 
night ; for, good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont, 
and being taken with the cramp was drowned : and the foolish chroni- 
clers of that age found it was— Hero of Sestos. But these are all lies : 
men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not 
for love. 

OrL I would not have my right Rosalind of this mind ; for, I protest, 
her frown might kill me." 

Rosalind's rejoinder, " By this hand, it will not kill a fly," 
should, I think, be given with a marked change of intonation, 
sufficient to indicate that, notwithstanding all the wild raillery 
of her former speech, there is in herself a vein of tenderness 
which would make it impossible for her to inflict pain delib- 
erately. We should be made to feel the woman just for the 
moment, — before she passes on to her next words, which, 
playful as they are, lead her on unawares to what I believe 
was regarded by her as a very real climax to this sportive 
wooing : — 

*^ But come, now I will be your Rosalind in a more coming-on dispo- 
sition ; and ask me what you will, I will grant it 
Orl. Then love me, Rosalind. 

R08. Yes, faith, will I — Fridays and Saturdays, and all. 
Orl And vnlt thou have me ? 
Rob, Ay, and twenty such. 
OrL What say'st thou ? 
R08. Are you not good ? 
Orl. I hope so. 
Ros, Why, then, can one desire too much of a good thing ?'* 

AMio does not feel through all this exuberance of sportive 


340 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

raillery the strong emotion which is palpitating at the 
speaker's heart ? She has proved and is assured of Orlando's 
devotion, and now she will plight her troth to him — ^irreYO* 
cablj, as she knows, but as he does not know. Turning to 
Celia, she says: — 

" Come, sister, you shall be the priest, and marry us. Qive me your 
hand, Orlando. What do you say, sister? 
^ OfL Pray thee, marry us. . . . 

Bm, You must begin, — * Will you, Orlando * 

Qd. Qo to. Will you, Orlando, have to wife this Rosalind ? 

OrL I will 

Bm, Ay, but when ? 

Orl, Why now ; as fast as she can marry us. 

jRm. Then you must say, — * I take thee, Rosalind, for wife.' 

OrL I take thee, Rosalind, for wife. 

Rm, I do take thee, Orlando, for my husband." 

It is not merely in pastime, I feel assured, that Rosalind has 
been made by Shakespeare to put these words into Orlando's 
moutL This is for her a marriage, though no priestly for- 
mality goes with it ; and it seems to me that the actress must 
show this by a certain tender earnestness of look and voice, as 
she replies, "I do take thee, Orlando, for my husband." I 
could never speak these words without a trembling of the 
voice, and the involuntary rushing of happy tears to the eyes, 
which made it necessary for me to turn my head away from 
Orlando. But, for fear of discovery, this momentary emotion 
had to be overcome, and turned off by carrying his thoughts 
into a different channel. Still Rosalind's gravity of look and 
intonation will not have quite passed away — for has she not 
taken the most solemn step a woman can take? — as she 
continues — 

Rosalind. 341 

^ Bm, Now tell me how long you would love her, after yon have pos- 
sessed her? 

OtI, For ever and a day. 

"Rm, Say a day, without the ever. No, no, Orlando ; men are April 
when they woo, December when they wed : maids are May when they 
are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives." 

Here, however, Rosalind finds herself running into a strain 
of serious earnest, with too much of the apprehensive woman 
in it; so she takes up her former cue of exaggerating the 
capriciousness of her own sex: — 

" I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon over his 
hen ; more clamorous than a parrot against rain ; more new-fangled 
than an ape ; more giddy in my desires than a monkey : I will weep 
for nothing, like Diana in the fountain, and 1 will do that when yon are 
disposed to be meny ; I will laugh like a hyena, and that when thou 
art inclined to sleep. 

Orl, But will my Rosalind do so ? 

Uo%, By my life, she will do as I do. 

Ofi, 0, but she is wise. 

Bm. Or else she could not have the wit to do this : the wiser the way- 
warder : make the doors upon a woman's wit, and it will out at the case- 
ment ; shut that, and 'twill out at the keyhole ; stop that, 'twill fly with 
the smoke out at the chimney." 

Rosalind through all this scene is like the bird " that can- 
not get out its song " for very joy. She dares not give direct 
vent to the happiness that fills her heart, and so she seeks 
relief by letting her fancy run riot in these playful exagger- 
ations. We feel how these flashes of sprightly fancy, that 
amuse even while they bewilder him, all help to weave a spell 
of fascination around Orlando's heart Rosalind sees this, and 
revelling in her triumph, pursues to the uttermost the course 
she had told him would cure him of his passion. Observe 
how this is carried out, when he teUs her presently that he 







It < 

342 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

muBt leave her for two hours. Here is mn oppuitiuiitT for 
showing what Ganymede has formerly told Orlando a wmnan 
cannot choose, but most be. She is now to "giieTe, be 
effeminate, changeable." 

" 12m. Alas, dear lore, I cannot lack thee two homa. 

(M. I mnat attend the Duke at dinner : bj two o'dock I will be witi& 
thee again. 

i2oc Ay, go your ways, go your ways ; I knew what you would prove : 
my friends told me as much, and I thought no less : that flattering 
tongne of yoms won me : 'tis bat one cast away, and so, — Oomey death ! " 

This is to be " fall of tears : *' and when she has pat a pang 
into her lover's heart by this semblance of reproachful grie^ 
she suddenly floods it with delight l^ taming to him, her 
, ' face radiant with smiles, and saying, "Two o'clock's jour 

hoar ! " This is to be "full of smiles," and the charm so works 
upon him, that we see he has lost the consdonsness that it is 
the boy Granymede, and not his own Bosalind, that is before 
him, as he answers, ''Ay, sweet Bosalind.** And she too, 
in her parting adjuration to him, comes nearer than she has 
ever done before to letting him see what is in her heart : — 

^ By my troth, and in good earnest, and so Heaven mend me, and by 
all pretty oaths that are not dangerous, if you break one jot of your pro- 
' mise, or come one minute behind your hour, I will think you the most 

' pathetical break-promise, and the most hollow lover, and the moat un- 

worthy of her you call Rosalind, that may be chosen out of the groes band 
I of the unfaithful. Therefore, beware my censure, and keep your promiae. 

Orl» With no less religion than if thou wert indeed my Roealind : ao, 
adieu ! "" 

Celia — who, admirable as she may be, is by no means of a 
highly imaginative nature — is no sooner alone with Bosalind 
than she takes her to task for what appears to her the un- 

Rosalind. 343 

favourable light in which her pictures of the waywardness of 
women in courtship and in marriage have placed her sex. 
" You have simply misused our sex in your love-prate," she 
says ; but this is a matter Bosalind is too full of her own 
emotions to discuss. Her tongue has run wild in trying to 
conceal the pressure at her heart ; and she has talked herself 
out of breath only to get deeper in love. 

" coz, coz, my pretty little coz," she replies, '* that thou didst know 
how many fathoms deep I am in love ! But it cannot be sounded. . . . 
That same wicked bastard of Venus, that was begot of thought, conceived 
of spleen, and bom of madness, that blind rascally boy that abuses every 
one's eyes because his own are out, let him be judge how deep I am in 
love, ril tell thee., Aliena, I cannot be out of sight of Orlando : TU go 
Und a shadow, and sigh till he come." 

We see from this confession how great has been the con- 
straint she has been keeping upon her emotions through all 
her sparkling badiruzge in the interviews with Orlando. He 
was to be but two hours absent, and had protested he should 
be with her by two o'clock; but when we next see her, 
two o'clock has come, but not Orlando. "How say you 
now?" she says to Celia. "Is it not past two o'clock? 
and here much Orlando!" While she is in this state of 
disappointment and unrest, Silvius arrives with the love- 
letter of which Phebe has made him the bearer. Such 
is the rare elasticity of Bosalind's temperament, and the 
activity of her intelligence, that she at once puts aside 
her own vexation — which could not have been small — and 
does what she can to put something of a manly spirit into 
this most forlorn of lovers. So far from thinking the letter 
he has brought to be one of love, he is under the impres- 
sion, from "the stem brow and waspish action" of Phebe 

344 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

in writing it, that '' it bears an angry tenor," and apologises 
for being the bearer of it Bosalind at onoe follows out 
this idea, though she has of coarse seen, by a glance at 
its contents, how very far this is from the truth: — 

'* Patience herself would startle at this letter 
And play the swaggerer ; bear this, bear all : 
She says I am not fair, that I lack manners ; 
She caUs me proud ; and that she could not love me. 
Were man as rare as phoenix. 'Od's my will ! 
Her love is not the hare that I do hunt : 
Why writes she so to me ? WeU, shepherd, well, 
This is a letter of your own device." 

In answer to his vehement protestations to the contrary, 
she goes on to depict its contents with her wonted fertility 
of &ncy : — 

" Why, 'tis a boisterous and a cruel style, 
A style for challengers. . . . Women's gentle brain 
Could not drop forth such giant-rude invention, 
Such Ethiop words, blacker in their effect 
Than in their countenance. Will you hear the letter ? " 

She then proceeds to read it, commenting on its evident 
• avowals of admiration in the same ironical spirit. But 

when she comes to the lines — 

/ '' He that brings this love to thee 

' Little knows this love in me," 

followed by the request that Granymede will use Silvius 
to bear his answer back, she is revolted by Phebe's treachery, 
and scarcely less by the pusillanimous insensibility of her 
suitor to it. Celia, in her matter-of-fact way, exclaims, 
"Alas, poor shepherd!" But Rosalind, wiser and higher- 
hearted, takes a different view: — 



Rosalind, 345 

^ Do you pity him ? no, he deserves no pity. Wilt thou love such a 
woman ? What, to make thee an instrument and play false strains upon 
thee ! not to be endured ! '* 

But not even this can rouse him ; so she dismisses him in a 
gentler strain : — 

''Well, go your way to her (for I see love hath made thee a tame 
snake), and say this to her : That if she love me, I chax^ her to love 
thee ; if she will not, I will never have her imless thou entreat for her." 

Still Orlando comes not. The fond woman's heartache, 
into which some shade of anxiety at his failure to keep 
his promise would by this time be sure to steal, has not 
time to reassert itself, when her attention is arrested by 
a stranger inquiring the way to the '' sheepcote fenced about 
with olive-trees/* which is her home. Attention deepens 
into interest as she finds from his words that he is a mes- 
senger from Orlando: — 

^ Orlando doth commend him to you both, 
And to that youth he calls his Rosalind 
He sends this bloody napkin. Are you he ? " 

Interest now becomes apprehension, and she answers, " I am : 
what must we understand by this ? *' With breathless eager- 
ness she listens as the stranger tells how Orlando had found 
his elder brother asleep in the forest, doubly threatened with 
death by " a green and gilded snake " on the one hand, and on 
the other by " a lioness with udders all drawn dry." The dif- 
ferent natures of Celia and Bosalind are well expressed l^ 
the ways, each so different, in which they are affected by 
this narrative. Celia exclaims: — 

" 0, 1 have heard him speak of that same brother ; 
And he did render him the most unnatural 
That lived 'mongst men." 





346 Shakespeare $ Female Characters : 

Rosalind's first thought is not of this brother^s craeltyy bat 

whether her lover has forgot the past and interposed to saTe 

his life. 

^ Bat, to Orlando : did he leave him there, 

Food to the suck'd and hungry lioneas ? " 

How her own noble heart leaps within her as she learns that, 
conquering the first impulse to leave his brother to his fate, 
Orlando has given ''battle to the lioness, who quickly fell 
before him " ! When the stranger goes on to tell them that 
he is that brother, Rosalind's first impulse naturally is to turn 
with undisguised aversion from the man who had for years 
done Orlando such grievous wrong. But his answer to her 
question, " Was it you he rescued ? " disarms her. 

** 01%, Twas I, yet 'tis not I. I do not shame 
! To tell you what I was, since my conversion 

j So sweetly tastes, being the thing 1 am." 

By the word "conversion," coupled vnth Oliver's downcast 
looks and contrite tone, Rosalind is touched. She feels that 
she has been ungenerous, and turning to him with a much 
gentler voice and manner, almost as though asking pardon 
for the resentment she had shown, she asks, "But for the 
bloody napkin ? " And here arises one of the many oppor- 
tunities which are afibrded in this play for that silent sug- 
gestive acting which is required to give eflfect to the purpose 
of the poet. " The woman, naturally bom to fears " has now 
to be indicated by the changing expression of Rosalind's look 
and manner, as she listens to Oliver's narrativa Her lover, 
— her more than lover — her plighted husband ever since she 
/ gave him her hand when they last met, — has still further 

proved his worthiness by making it his first care to introduce 

Rosalind. 347 

his brother to the banished Duke. Still, what does the bloody 
napkin imply ? And how much is there to rouse her alarm, 
when Oliver goes on to say that, on leaving the Duke, his 
brother led him to his own cave, 

" There stripped himself, and here upon his arm 
The lioness had torn some flesh awaj, 
Which all this while had bled ; and now he fainted, 
And cried, in fainting, upon Rosalind " ? 

The sweet feeling of admiration for her lover's courageous 
endurance, and of delight that his foremost thought had been 
of his Kosalind, cannot keep her from thinking of his wound 
as something more serious than it proves to be. A sick 
feeling comes over her as Oliver proceeds : — 

** Brief, I recover'd him, bound up his wound ; 
And, after some small space, being strong at heart, 
He sent me hither, stranger as I am, 
To tell this story, that you might excuse 
His broken promise, and to give this napkin 
Dyed in his blood unto the shepherd youth. 
That he in sport doth call his Rosalind.*' 

As he speaks, Bosalind's vivid imagination brings before her 
the peril of the contest in which her lover had been engaged, 
and how near she has been to losing him. The strain upon 
her feelings is too much even for her powers of self-command, 
great as they are, and she falls fainting into her cousin's arms. 
She has borne up, however, so well, that Oliver has no sus- 
picion of her sex, and ascribes her fainting to the not un- 
common experience, that "Many will swoon when they do 
look on blood." When she recovers, and he says to her, " Be 
of good cheer, youth ; you a man ! You lack a man's heart," 
she admits the fact, but, ready and adroit as ever, tries to 

348 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

avert his suspicion by afiTecting to have merely feigned to 
swoon. The rest of the scene, with the struggle between 
actual physical faintness and the effort to make light of it, 
touched in by the poet with exquisite skill, calls for the most 
deUcate and discriminating treatment in the actress. The 
audience, who are in her secret, must be made to feel the 
tender loving nature of the woman through the simulated 
gaiety by which it is veiled ; and yet the character of the boy 
Gkmymede must be sustained. This is another of the many 
passages, to which the actress of comedy only will never give 
adequate expression. How beautiful it is ! — 

*' Ah, edrrah, a body would think this was well counterfeited ! I pray 
you, tell your brother how well I counterfeited. Heigh-bo ! 

01%, This was not counterfeit : there is too great testimony in your 
complexion that it was a passion of earnest. 

Bm, Counterfeit, I assure you. 

OJi, Well, then, take a good heart, and counterfeit to be a man. 

Bat. So I do : but i'faith, I should have been a woman by right. 

Od, Come, you look paler and paler: pray you, draw homewards. 
Good sir, go with us. 

Olx, That will I, for I must bear answer back, how you excuse my 
brother, Rosalind. 

Bm, 1 shall devise something ; but, I pray you, commend my counter- 
feiting to him. Will you go ? " 

And that her quick wit did devise something to the purpose, 
who can doubt ? for it is clear that Orlando's suspicions were 
not aroused. Sut in the brief interval that elapses before she 
again sees him, events have occurred which turn his thoughts 
into another channel. In that charmed forest region, where 
everything is "as you like it," events move swiftly. Celia, 
who has hitherto mocked at love, becomes, as such mockers 
often do, its unresisting victim. In the repentant Oliver she 

Rosalind. 349 

has met her fate, and he his in her. Making all allowance for 
the necessity of bringing the action of the play to a speedy con- 
clusion, the readiness with which Celia succumbs to Oliver's 
suit is somewhat startling. Shakespeare felt this himself, and 
does his best to take the edge off its apparent improbability. 
How wittily has he made Rosalind discourse of it to Orlando ! — 

'* There never was anything so sudden but the fight of two rams, and 
CsBsar's Thrasonical brag of ' 1 came, saw, and overcame : * for your brother 
and my sister no sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they 
loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked 
one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the 
remedy ; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to mar- 
riage. . . . They are in the very wrath of love, and they will to- 
gether ; clubs cannot part them.** 

This ia very amusing, but Orlando can only think how envi- 
able is his brother's case compared with his own. ''They 
shall be married to-morrow," he says, "and I will bid the 
Duke to the nuptial But, oh, how bitter a thing it is to look 
into happiness through another man's eyes ! " The sad earn- 
estness with which this is said finds an echo in Rosalind's 
own feelings, as she replies, " Why, then, to-morrow I cannot 
serve your turn for Rosalind ? " Can we wonder at his an- 
swer, "I can live no longer by thinking " — worked up to 
a very fever-heat of yearning devotion as he has been to his 
ideal Rosalind, by the hours and days he has spent in playing 
the lover to the pretty youth who has borne her name, and 
kept her image continually before him, fascinating him hour 
after hour by all the qualities which he had dreamed his ideal 
to possess ? When Rosalind had herself got to the point, that 
she '* could not live out of the sight " of her lover, and had 
learned, by what she suffered at the thought of his recent 

350 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

danger, how essential he had become to her happiness, she 
was not likely to be deaf to this outcry of Orlando's hungry 
heart. The time has come for her to yield. But she will 
keep up a little longer the illusion under which he labours, so 
she answers :— 

*' I will weary yon no longer then with idle talking. Know of me 
then (for now I speak to some purpose) . . . that I can do strange 
things. I have, since 1 was three years old, conversed with a magiciaoi, 
most profound in his art, and yet not damnable. If you do love Rosa- 
lind so near the heart as your gesture cries it out, when your brother 
marries Aliena, shall you marry her. I know into what straits of for- 
tune she is driven ; and it is not impossible for me, if it appear not 
inconvenient to you, to set her before your eyes, human as she is^ and 
without any danger. 

OtI, Speakest thou in sober meanings ? 

Eoi. By my life, I do ; which I tender dearly, though I say I am a 
magician. Therefore, put you in your best array, bid your friends ; for, 
if you will be married to-morrow, you shall, — and to Rosalind, if you 

Their colloquy is interrupted by the arrival of Phebe with 
Silvius. Phebe tasks Ganymede with " much ungentleness " 
for having shown Silvius her letter. With pretty imperious- 
ness Rosalind replies : — 

" I care not if I have : it is my study 
To seem ungentle and despiteful to you : 
You are there followed by a faithful shepherd ; 
Look upon him, love him : he worships you." 

The himibled Phebe can only answer by asking Silvius to 
"tell this youth what *tis to love." The charming scene 
which ensues, in which Silvius fulfils his task with a skill the 
most passionate lyrist might envy, gives Rosalind a further 
opportunity of assuring herself of her lover's devotion. AH 

Rosalind. 35 1 

that Silvius protests he feels for Phebe, Orlando protests he 
feels for Bosalind ; and when at last, addressing Rosalind, he 
says, " If this be so, why blame you me to love you ? " he 
speaks as though it was his " very very Bosalind " he were 
addressing. On this she at once catches him up, saying — 

" Bm, Whom do you speak to ? ' Why blame you me to love you 1 ' 
OtI, To her that is not here, nor doth not hear/' 

But Bosalind, finding the " homily of love," in which Orlando, 
Silvius, and Phebe echo each other, grow tedious, breaks in 
upon them with the words — 

*" Pray you no more of this ; 'tis like the howling of Irish wolves 
against the moon. I will help you [to 5»7rita] if I can : I would love 
you [to P^6«] if I could. To-morrow meet we all together. I will 
marry you [to Ph/^bt\ if ever I marry woman, and III be married to- 
morrow. I will satisfy you [to OTiandjo\ if ever I satisfied man, and yon 
8lmll be married to-morrow. I will content you [to £ri/v»iMJ, if what 
pleases yon contents you, and you shall be married to-morrow. As you 
[to Orlan\Ao\ love Rosalind, meet ; as you [to Silv%wi\ love Phebe, meet ; 
and as I love no woman, 1*11 meet. So fare you well : I have left you 

Tlie ascendancy which the boy (janymede has established 
over all who come within his sphere is so complete, that 
Orlando, Phebe, and Silvius part from him with a complete 
belief that he will accomplish everything he has promised. 
Orlando reports to the Duke the hope that has been held out 
to him ; and any misgiving he may have had would be dis- 
pelled, when presently he finds (Act v. sc 4) that the boy 
Ganymede comes to ask the banished Duke if, when he shall 
bring in his daughter, he will give her to Orlando. His 
answer, " That would I, had I kingdoms to give with her," 
removes the only obstacle which as a dutiful daughter she 

352 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

would recognise. But not until she has obtained a fresh assa- 
ranee from Orlando, that he would marry his Sosalind '' were 
he of all kingdoms king/' and from Phebe that if she refuses 
to marry Glanyinede she will give herself to Silvius, does she 
go away " to make all doubts even " by appearing forthwith 
in her own true character, along with Celia, and led on by 
" Hymen." 

It is Rosalind, of course, who has arranged the masque of 
Hymen, keeping up to the last the film of glamour which she 
has thrown around her lover and the other strangers to her 
secret Mr Macready, in his revival of the play at Druxy 
Lane, with Mrs Nesbitt as Bosalind, restored it to the stage ; 
but beautiful as it is in itself, and bringing this charming love- 
romance most appropriately to a close, yet it delays the action 
too much for scenic purposes. Hymen's lines, as he leads in 
Bosalind and Celia in their wedding-robes, are like a strain of 
sweet music, solemn but not sad, as befits a bridal hymn : — 

" Then is there mirth in heaven, 
When earthly things made even 

Atone together. 
Good Duke, receive thy daughter : 
Hymen from heaven brought her, 

Yea, brought her hither, 
That thou might'st join her hand in his 
Whose heart within her bosom is." 

How beautiful is this last line, and how fully does it express 
that perfect union of the two lovers' hearts ! 

With her masking guise, Rosalind drops the witty volu- 
bility that has served her purpose so well. Her words are 
few, but they are pregnant with feeling. Turning to her 
father, she says, " To you I give myself, for I am yours ; " and 

Rosalind. 353 

while still hanging on his breast, she holds out her hand to 
Orlando, repeating the same words. What others could so 
well express the surrender which a loving daughter here 
makes of herself to the lover " whose heart within her bosom 
is " ? Her own heart is too full to say much ; her soxQ too 
much enwrapped in the thoughts which the climax of marriage 
brings to a noble woman, for her to sport with the surprise 
which this sudden revelation produces : — 

*< DuJbe. If there be truth in sight, you are my daughter. 

OrL If there be truth in sight, you are my Rosalind. 

P^e&e. If sight and shape be true, 
Why then, my love, adieu I 

Bm, I'll have no father, if you be not he ; 
111 have no husband if you be not he ; 
Nor e'er wed woman, if you [to FhM\ be not she." 

But the " conclusion of these most strange events " is not 
yet Oliver, we have been told, had determined to settle upon 
Orlando " all the revenue that was old Sir Sowland's, and live 
and die a shepherd in the forest " with his Aliena, She, on the 
other hand, had, as we have seen, long since told Bosalind 
that, when Duke Frederick died, Sosalind should be his heir. 
But now Bosalind is to resume her state by means more direct 
The usurping Duke, smitten with remorse, as we learn from 
Sir Bowland's second son, who at this point appears upon the 
scene, has taken to a religious lif( 

'< His crown bequeathing to his banish'd brother. 
And all their lands restored to them again 
That were with him exiled." 

Thus is the wrong made right: this alone was wanted to 
complete the story. An Tcu L%k$ It. 

354 Shakespeare^ s Female Cliaracters : 

No word escapes from Rosalind's lips, as we watch her 
there, the woman in all her beauty and perfect grace, now 
calmly happy, beside a father restored to "a potent duke- 
dom," and a lover whom she knows to be wholly worthy to 
i wield that dukedom, when in due season she will endow him 

with it as her husband. Happiest of women ! for who else 
ever had such means of testing that love on which her own 
happiness depends? In the days that are before her, all 
the largeness of heart, the rich imagination, the bright com- 
manding intellect, which made her the presiding genius of 
the forest of Arden, will work with no less beneficent sway 
in the wider sphere of princely duty. With what delight 
will she recur with her lover-husband to the strange accidents 
of fortune which " forced sweet love on pranks of saucy boy- 
hood," and to the never-to-be-forgotten hours when he was 
a second time " overthrown " by the wit, the playful wiles, the 
inexplicable charm of the young Ganymede! How, too, in 
all the grave duties of the high position to which his alliance 
will raise him, will Orlando not only possess in her an hon- 
oured, beloved, and admired companion, but will also find 
wise guidance and support in her clear inteUigence and cour- 
ageous will! It is thus, at least, that I dream of my dear 
Rosalind and her Orlando. 

" 0, they will walk this world, 
Yoked in all exercise of noble end, 
And 80 through those dark gates across the wild 
That no man knows." 

Oliver's proposal to make over his estates to Orlando, and 
" to live and die a shepherd in the forest," naturally falls to 
the ground with the reinstatement of Rosalind's father in his 

Rosalind. 355 

duchy. Oliver will resume his former position — ^his ''land 
and great allies/' as Jaques says — and Bosalind and Celia will 
not be separated. Is it likely that Eosalind should be out- 
done in generosity ? When the heavens were " at their 
sorrows pale/' Celia insisted upon sharing her banishment 
Could Eosalind's happiness be complete without the love 
and presence of that constant dearest friend ? No ! If they 
might not henceforward move, "like Juno's swans, stiU 
coupled and inseparable/' yet they must pass their lives near 
each other, and in ever sweet and loving communion. 

Much as I have written, I feel how imperfectly I have 
brought out all that this delightful play has been and is to 
ma I can but hope that I have said enough to show why 
I gave my heart to Bosalind, and found an ever new delight 
in trying to impersonate her. 

Never was that delight greater than the last time I did so. 
As it happened, it was the last time I appeared upon the 
stage. The occasion was a benefit, in October 1879, for the 
widow of Mr Charles Calvert, himself an excellent actor, 
who had spent many years in producing Shakespeare worthily 
to the Manchester public at the Prince's Theatre. In his 
revivals he had kept the scene-painter and the costume- 
maker under wise control, insisting that what they did 
should be subservient to the development of character and 
of plot. His death was justly felt by the Manchester public 
to be a great loss to the dramatic art, and it was a pleasure 
to me to join with them in doing honour to his memory. He 
told me once a pretty story of his wife. He had sent her 
to see me in Bosalind, at the Theatre Boyal — for I never 


356 Shakespeare^ s Female Characters : 

acted in his theatre. On returning home, he found her in 
tears. Upon inquiring the reason, she replied, '' How could 
you ever allow me to go upon the stage for Bosalind ? I 
am ashamed of myself, for I see I knew nothing about her." 
It reminded me of what had been my own case, until I 
had made the loving study of her which I have tried to 

I can never forget the warmth of my Manchester friends 
that night, when I left my retirement to join in helping the 
widow and children, whom their old manager had left be- 
hind him. I had expected, and thought I had nerved myself 
to meet, a cordial greeting, but this was so prolonged and so 
overwhelming, that it took away my breath ; and even when 
at last it ceased, I could not recover myself enough to speak. 
My agitation quite alarmed the young lady by my side, who 
acted Celia, Miss Kate Pattison, and we stood like a pair 
of mutes for a moment or two, until the renewed plaudits 
of the audience roused us to a sense of what was expected 
from us. The old sensation of stage-fright, never completely 
lost, came back upon me as freshly then as upon the night 
of my first appearance. After a while, when this had passed 
away in the interest of the scene, I was full of gratitude to 
find that I had not rusted in my privacy. I had found also 
in the rehearsal of the previous day, which, from the lai^ 
number attending it, became almost a performance, that I 
had as much delight as ever in depicting the life of one so 
dear to my imagination, and that I could do so with as much 
freshness and elasticity as at the beginning of my career. 

I was very much interested in seeing the careful study 
which the actors on this occasion, mostly amateurs, had 


Rosalind. 357 

given tx) all the characters, great and small, in the play. 
It was a pleasure to act beside so much intelligence and 
artistic talent. I felt quite a keen regret when this not-to- 
be-repeated performance was over. 

How many good parts there are in this play, as indeed 
there must be in every fine play, and how great would be 
the delight of acting in it with every character adequately 
represented ! How little do those who usually act what are 
called the smaller parts in Shakespeare know the gems within 
their reach, and the splendid opportunities they throw away ! 
I have tried in my rehearsals to bring those who acted with 
me up to the highest level I could, by calling their attention 
to these opportunities (though not always with success), and 
by showing them the value of the passages they had over- 
looked. Some were incapable of seeing the author's meaning, 
some indififerent to it ; others have looked as though I were 
taking a liberty, and had no business to leave my own char- 
acter and interfere with theirs ; some few, I am glad to say, 
have thanked me when they found the audience recognise 
and appreciate the significance given to the text by following 
my suggestions. 

Out of London I never saw the play of An Yov, Lik$ It 
more fully enjoyed or better acted than in Edinburgh. There, 
in the first years of my visits, a fine illustration was given of 
the way in which a minor part may be raised into import- 
ance by the actor's skill Mr Murray, the manager, was the 
William. Night after night I used to go to the side scene 
to see the only bit in the fifth act in which William appears 
with Touchstone. He was the very man, one felt, whom 
Shakespeare had in his mind,— ^Iress, voice, look, manner. 

k 358 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

! were all life-lilce; — just Buch a blunder-headed, good-natnied. 

t staring, grinning, frightened oaf as at onoe provokes and 

' falls an easy victim to the waggishneas of Touchatone. He 

i' bad so little to say, and yet so much to auggeet 

. The Touchstone of the same theatre in those days, a Mr 

I Uoyd, was almost the best I have ever seen ; and thon^ 

f wanting in the courtly demeanour, which I think is one of 

Touchstone's characteristics, he bronght out ihe diy, qoaint^ 
sententious humour of the man with the happiest effect. 

One word about the Epilogue before I conclttd& This, 
aa it is written, was fit enough for the mouth of a boy-actor 
of women's parts in Shakespeare's time, but it is altogether 
oat of tone with the Lady Bosalind. It is the stage tradition 
to speak it, and I, of course, followed the tradition — never, 
however, without a kind of shrinking distaste for my task. 
Some of the words I omitted, and some I altered, and I 
did my best, in giving it, to make it serve to illustrate how 
the high-toned winning woman reasserted herself in Bosalind, 
when she laid aside her doublet and hosa I have been 
told that I succeeded in this. Still, speaking the Epilogue 
remained the one drawback to my pleasure. In it one 
addresses the audience neither as Ganymede nor as Bosa- 
lind, but as one's own very self. Anything of this kind 
was repugnant to me, my desire always being to lose myself 
in the character I was representing. When taken thus per- 
force out of my ideal, I felt stranded and altf^ther unhappy. 
Except when obliged, as in this instance, I never addressed 
an audience, havii^ neither the wish nor the courage to do 
so. Therefore, as I advanced to speak the Epilogue, a painful 
shyness came over me, a kind of nervous fear, too, lest I should 

Rosalind. 359 

forget what I had to say, — a fear I never had at other times, — 
and thus the closing words always brought to me a sense of 
inexpressible relief. 

I am sure you will think, my dear Mr Browning, that 
I have detained you long enough, — and now I will set you 
free ; for which release, I hope, you will kindly, in the words 
of that Epilogue, " when I make curtsey, bid me farewell." — 
Ever most sincerely yours, 





B E A T K I C E. 

" There ww » star danced, and under Uiat ma I born." 


I AM glad to see by your letter that Beatrice is 
a favourite witli you. The lieresy of Camp- 
bell and others, that describes her as s com- 
pound of tomboy, flirt, and shrew, — "an 
odious womao," I think, Campbell calls her, — 
has manifestly not enlisted you among ite adherents. Whilat, 
therefore, I am sure of your sympathy in trying to pnt 
into words the conception of this brilliant and cliaiming 
woman which I endeavoured to embody on the stage, still 
I must approach the subject with great trepidation, as yon 
tell mc that yon are " listening with all your heart to what I 

364 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

shall say of her." I cannot dare to hope I shall throw much 
light upon the character that will be new to you, who have 
shown, in so many places, how thorough has been your study 
of Shakespeare's heroines, and with what loving insight you 
have used them to illustrate the part women have played, 
and are meant to play, in bringing sweetness and comfort, 
and help and moral strength, into man's troubled and per- 
plexing life. The lesson Shakespeare teaches seems to me 
to be entirely in accordance with your own belief, expressed 
in many ways, "that no man ever lived a right life who 
had not been chastened by a woman's love, strengthened 
by her courage, and guided by her discretion." 

Of Beatrice I cannot write with the same full heart, or v^ith 
the same glow of sympathy, with which I wrote of Sosalind. 
Her character is not to me so engaging. We might hope 
to meet in life something to remind us of Beatrice; but 
in our dreams of fair women Sosalind stands out alone. 

Neither are the circiunstances under which Beatrice comes 
before us of a kind to draw us so closely to her. Unlike 
Rosalind, her life has been and is, while we see her, one 
of pure sunshine. Sorrow and wrong have not softened 
her nature, nor taken off the keen edge of her wit When 
we are introduced to her, she is the great lady, bright, 
brilliant, beautiful, enforcing admiration as she moves "in 
maiden meditation fancy free" among the fine ladies and 
accompUshed gallants of her circle. Up to this time there 
has been no call upon the deeper and finer qualities of her 
nature. The sacred fountain of tears has never been stirred 
within her. To pain of heart she has been a stranger. She 
has not learned tenderness or toleration under the discipline 

Beatrice. 365 

of sufiTering or disappointment^ of unsatisfied yearning or 

failure. Her life has been 

" A Bummer mood. 

To which all pleasant things have come unsought," 

and across which the shadows of care or sorrow have never 
passed. She has a quick eye to see what is weak or ludicrous 
in man or woman. The impulse to speak out the smart and 
poignant things that rise readily and swiftly to her lips, 
is irresistible. She does not mean to inflict pain, though 
others besides Benedick must at times have felt that " every 
word stabs." She simply rejoices in the keen sword-play 
of her wit, as she would in any other exercise of her intellect, 
or sport of her fancy. In very gaiety of heart she flashes 
around her the playful lightning of sarcasm and repartee, 
thinking of them only as something to make the time pass 
brightly by. "I was bom," she says of herself, ''to speak 
all mirth and no matter." Again, when Don Pedro teUs 
her she has "a merry heart," she answers, "Yea, my lord, 
I thank it; poor fool, it keeps on the windy side of care." 
And what does her uncle Leonato say of her? — 

" There's little of the melancholy element in her, my lord : she is 
never sad but when she sleeps ; and not ever sad then ; for I have heard 
my daughter say she hath often dreamt of unhappiness, and waked 
herself with laughing.'* — (Act ii. sc 1.) 

Wooers she has had, of course, not a few; but she has 
"mocked them all out of suit" Very dear to her is the 
independence of her maidenhood, — for the moment has not 
come when to surrender that independence into a lover's 
hands is more delightful than to maintain it. But though in 
the early scenes of the play she makes a mock of wooers and 

366 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

of marriage, with obvious zest and with a brilliancy of CBacj 
and pungency of sarcasm that mig^t well appal any ordimuy 
wooer, it is my conviction that, although her heart has not as 
yet been touched, she has at any rate begun to see in ^ Signor 
Benedick of Padua " qualities which have caught her &nqr. 
She has noted him closely, and Us image recurs unbidden to 
her mind with a frequency which suggests that he is at least 
more to her than any other man« The train is laid, and only 
requires a spark to kindle it into flame. How this is done, 
and with what exquisite skill, will be more and more felt the 
more closely the structure of the play and the distinctive 
qualities of the actors in it are studied. 

I think, indeed, this play should rank, in point of dramatic 
construction and development of character, with the beet of 
Shakespeare's works. It has the further distinction, that 
whatever is most valuable in the plot is due solely to his own 
invention. In this respect it diflTers signally from Ag Yim 
Like It, In Tfie Tale of Oamelyn, and more particularly in 
Lodge's Bosalynde, Shakespeare found ready to his hand the 
main plot of that play, and suggestions for several of the 
characters. With his usual wonderful aptitude he assimilated 
everything that could be turned to dramatic account. Yet 
his debt was after all of no great amount. He had to discard 
far more than he adopted. The story with the actors in it 
became a new creation ; and by infusing into a pretty but 
tedious pastoral and some very unreal characters a purpose 
and a life which were exclusively his own, he transmuted mere 
pebbles into gems. But neither for plot nor character was 
he indebted to any one in Much Ado AbotU NotfUng. It is 
no doubt true, that in Ariosto and BandeUo and in our own 

Beatrice. 371 

she thought his advice might be valuable; and on several 
occasions afterwards he took the trouble of reading over new 
parts with me and giving me his advice and help. One thing 
which he impressed upon me I never forgot. It was, on no 
account to give prominence to the merely physical aspect of any 
painful emotion. Let the expression be genuine, earnest, but 
not ugly. He pointed out to me how easy it was to simulate 
distortions — ^to writhe, for example, from the supposed effect 
of poison, to gasp, to roll the eyes, &c. These were melo- 
dramatic effects. But if pain or death had to be simulated, 
or any sudden or violent shock, let them be shown in their 
mental rather in their physical signs. The picture presented 
might be as sombre as the darkest Bembrandt, but it must 
be noble in its outlines ; truthful, picturesque, but never repul- 
sive, mean, or commonplace. It must suggest the heroic, the 
divine, in human nature, and not the mere everyday struggles 
or tortures of this life, whether in joy or sorrow, despair or 
hopeless grief. Under every circumstance the ideal, the noble, 
the beautiful, should be given side by side with the real. 

I have always felt what a happy circumstance it was for 
a shy and sensitive temperament like mine, that my first 
steps in my art should have been guided and encouraged 
by a nature so generous and sympathetic as Mr Eemble's. 
He made me feel that I was in the right road to success, 
and gave me courage by speaking warmly of my natural 
gifts of voice, &c, and praising my desire to study and 
improve, and my readiness in seizing his meaning and 
profiting by his suggestions. How different it was when, 
shortly afterwards, I came under Mr Macready's influence! 
Equally great in their art. Nature had cast the men in en- 

368 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

I was called upon veiy early in my caieer to impersonate 
Beatrice; but I must frankly admit that, while, as I have 
said, I could not but admire her, she had not taken hold of 
my heart as my other heroines had done. Indeed there is 
nothing of the heroine about her, nothing of romance or of 
poetic suggestion in the circumstances of her life — ^nothing, 
in short, to captivate the imagination of a very young girl, 
such as I then was. It caused me great disquietude, when 
Mr Charles Eemble, who was playing a series of farewell 
performances at Covent Garden, where I had made mj dfbfHl 
on the stage but a few months before, singled me out to play 
Beatrice to his Benedick, on the night when he bade adieu to 
his profession That I, who had hitherto acted only the young 
tragic heroines, was to be thus transported out of mj natural 
sphere into the strange world of high comedy, was a surprise 
indeed. To consent seemed to me nothing short of presump- 
tion. I urged upon Mr Kemble how utterly unqualified I 
was for such a venture. His answer was, " I have watched 
you in the second act of Julia in Tht Hunchback, and I know 
that you will by-and-by be able to act Shakespeare's comedy. 
I do not mean now, because more years, greater practice, 
greater confidence in yourself, must come before you will 
have sufficient ease. But do not be afraid. I am too much 
your friend to ask you to do anything that would be likely 
to prove a failure." This he followed up by offering to teach 
me " the business " of the scene. What could I do ? He had, 
from my earliest rehearsals, been uniformly kind, helpful, and 
encouraging — how could I say him "Nay"? My friends, 
too, who of course acted for me, as I was under age, considered 
that I must consent I was amazed at some of the odd things 

Beatrice. 371 

she thought his advice might be valuable; and on several 
occasions afterwards he took the trouble of reading over new 
parts with me and giving me his advice and help. One thing 
which he impressed upon me I never forgot. It was, on no 
account to give prominence to the merely physical aspect of any 
painful emotion. Let the expression be genuine, earnest, but 
not ugly. He pointed out to me how easy it was to simulate 
distortions — ^to writhe, for example, from the supposed effect 
of poison, to gasp, to roll the eyes, &c. These were melo- 
dramatic effects. But if pain or death had to be simulated, 
or any sudden or violent shock, let them be shown in their 
mental rather in their physical signs. The picture presented 
might be as sombre as the darkest Bembrandt, but it must 
be noble in its outlines ; truthful, picturesque, but never repul- 
sive, mean, or commonplace. It must suggest the heroic, the 
divine, in human nature, and not the mere everyday struggles 
or tortures of this life, whether in joy or sorrow, despair or 
hopeless grief. Under every circumstance the ideal, the noble, 
the beautiful, should be given side by side with the real. 

I have always felt what a happy circumstance it was for 
a shy and sensitive temperament like mine, that my first 
steps in my art should have been guided and encouraged 
by a nature so generous and sympathetic as Mr Eemble's. 
He made me feel that I was in the right road to success, 
and gave me courage by speaking warmly of my natural 
gifts of voice, &c, and praising my desire to study and 
improve, and my readiness in seizing his meaning and 
profiting by his suggestions. How different it was when, 
shortly afterwards, I came under Mr Macready's influence! 
Equally great in their art. Nature had cast the men in en- 




370 Shakespeare s Female Cliaracters : 

been, I think it is well the knowledge that we are doing any- 
thing for the last time is kept from us. I see now those who 
had acted in the play asking for a memento of the night, — 
gloves, handkerchiefs, feathers, one by one taken from the 
hat, then the hat itself, — all, in short, that could be detached 
from the dress. I, whose claim was as nothing compared 
to that of others, stood aside, greatly moved and sorrowful, 
weeping on my mother's shoulder, when, as the exdtiiig 
scene was at last drawing to a close, Mr Kemble saw me, 
and exclaimed, ''What! My Lady baby^ Beatrice all in 
tears ! What shall I do to comfort her ? What can I give 
her in remembrance of her first Benedick?" I sobbed out, 
" Give me the book from which you studied Benedick." He 
answered, '' You shall have it, my dear, and many others V* 
He kept his word, and I have still two small volumes in 
which are collected some of the plays in which he acted, and 
also some in which his daughter, Fanny Kemble, who was 
then married and living in America, had acted. These came 
with a charming letter on the title-page addressed to his 
" dear little friend." « 

He also told my mother to bring me to him, if at any time 

^ I must explain that " baby ** was the pet name by which Mr Kemble 
always called me. I cannot tell why, unless it were because of the contrast 
he found between his own wide knowledge of the world and of art, and my 
innocent ignorance and youth. Delicate health had kept me in a quiet home, 
which I only left at intervals for a quieter life by the seaside, so that I knew, 
perhaps, far less of the world and its ways than even most girls of my age. 

' The letter was in these terms : — 

"11 Park Place, St Jamm's. 

" Mt diar littlb Friend, — To you alone do these parts, which once were 

Fanny Kemble's, of right belong ; for from you alone can we now expect the 

most efficient representation of them. Pray oblige me by giving them a place 

in your study ; and believe me ever your true friend and servant, 

M Q^ ir««n»* _ tt 


Beatrice. 371 

she thought his advice might be valuable; and on several 
occasions afterwards he took the trouble of reading over new 
parts with me and giving me his advice and help. One thing 
which he impressed upon me I never forgot. It was, on no 
account to give prominence to the merely physical aspect of any 
painful emotion. Let the expression be genuine, earnest, but 
not ugly. He pointed out to me how easy it was to simulate 
distortions — ^to writhe, for example, from the supposed effect 
of poison, to gasp, to roll the eyes, &c. These were melo- 
dramatic effects. But if pain or death had to be simulated, 
or any sudden or violent shock, let them be shown in their 
mental rather in their physical signs. The picture presented 
might be as sombre as the darkest Bembrandt, but it must 
be noble in its outlines ; truthfid, picturesque, but never repul- 
sive, mean, or commonplace. It must suggest the heroic, the 
divine, in human nature, and not the mere everyday struggles 
or tortures of this life, whether in joy or sorrow, despair or 
hopeless grief. Under every circumstance the ideal, the noble, 
the beautiful, should be given side by side with the real. 

I have always felt what a happy circumstance it was for 
a shy and sensitive temperament like mine, that my first 
steps in my art should have been guided and encouraged 
by a nature so generous and sympathetic as Mr Eemble's. 
He made me feel that I was in the right road to success, 
and gave me courage by speaking warmly of my natural 
gifts of voice, &c, and praising my desire to study and 
improve, and my readiness in seizing his meaning and 
profiting by his suggestions. How different it was when, 
shortly afterwards, I came under Mr Macready's influence! 
Equally great in their art. Nature had cast the men in en- 

372 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

tiiely different monlda. Each helped me, but bj processes 
wholly unlilce. The one, while pointing out what was wrong, 
brought the balm of encouragement and hope; the other, 
like the sorgeon, who " cuts beyond Uie wound to make the 
core more certain," was merciless to the feelings, where he 
thought a fault or a defect might so best be pruned away. 
Both were my true friends, and were most kind to me, each 
in his own way of showing kindness. Yet it was well for my 
Belf-distruBtful nature that the gentler kindness came first. 

Mr Kemble never lost an opportunity of making you 
happy. When Joanna Baillie's play. The S^iaration, was 
produced witiiin two months of my first appearance, I had, 
in the heroine Maigaret, a very difficult part — quite unlike 
any I bad previously acted or even studied. The story 
turns upon a wife's hearing that her husband, before their 
marriage, had murdered her brother. The play opens with 
the wife's learning the terrible truth, just as Uie tidings 
reach her that her husband has returned safely from battle, 
and is close at hand. Of course "the Separation" ensues. 
It must have been a great trouble to Mr Kemble, who played 
Garcio, the husband, to study a new part at that period 
of his career, and I wonder that he undertook it. Yon may 
im^ine how nervous and anxious I felt at attempting the 
leading character in a play never before acted, and one, 
moreover, with which I had little sympathy. During the 
first performance Mr Kemble also appeared very nervous, 
and at times seemed at a loss for his words. He was deaf, 
too, — not very deaf, but sufficiently so to make the prompter's 
voice of no use to him. Happily I was able on several 
occasions, being close to him, to whisper the words. How I 

Beatrice. 373 

knew them I can hardly tell, because we had not copies 
of the play to study from, but only our own manuscript 
parts. But I had heard him repeat them at rehearsal, 
and so they had fixed themselves in my memory. Natu- 
rally, I thought nothing of this at the time. The next 
morning, when we met upon the stage to make some little 
changes in the play, Mr Eemble spoke openly of the help 
I had been to him, making very much more of it than 
it deserved, and above all, marvelling at the self-command 
of the young novice coming with so much readiness to 
support an old actor, who should have been on the look- 
out to do that office for her. I was much ashamed to be 
praised for so small a thing. But how quietly glad was 
the little mouse when she found that she had helped, ever 
so slightly, her good friend the noble lion!^ 

Mr Kemble seemed to my eyes before everything pre- 
eminently a gentleman; and this told, as it always must 
tell, when he enacted ideal characters. There was a natural 
grace and dignity in his bearing, a courtesy and unstudied 
deference of manner in approaching and addressing women, 

^ I shall never forget my ■urprise, when, on going into the Soho 
one day, during the run of Sefamlvm^ and coming to the doU-stall — a not- 
forgotten spot of interest for me — I saw a doll, labelled " Min Helen Faudt as 
The Lisdy Margaret in Separaiiim,** Such things were verj unusual then, and 
I felt just a little — not proud, but happy. The doU's dress was exactly mine 
—copied most accurately. I am sure, had I not thought it would look like 
vanity, I should have liked to buy my doU-self. Moreover, my funds at that 
time might not have permitted suoh^extravaganoe, and I felt too shy to ask the 
price. It was a grandly got-up lady ; and althou|^ my salary was the lai|(est 
ever given in those days, I was, as a minor, only aUowed by my friends a aUght 
increase to the pocket-money which had been mine before my ddh^tl. Happily 
for me, both then and since, money has ever been a matter of slight importance 
in my regard. Success in my art^ and the preservation of the freshne« and 
freedom of spirit which are essential to true distinction in it, were always my 
first thought. 

374 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

whether in private society or on the stage, which I have 
scarcely seen equalled. Perhaps it was not quite so rare 
in his day as it is now. What a lover he must have 
made! What a Eomeo! What an Orlando! I got 
glimpses of what these must have been in the readings 
which Mr Eemble gave after he left the stage, and which 
I attended diligently, with heart and brain awake to profit 
by what I heard. How fine was his Mercutio! What 
brilliancy, what ease, what spontaneous fiow of fancy in 
the Queen Mab speech! The very start of it was sug- 
gestive — " 0, then, I see Queen Mab " (with a slight emphasis 
on "Mab") "hath been with you!" How exquisite was 
the play of it all, image rising up after image, one crowding 
upon another, each new one more fanciful than the last! 
"Thou talk'st of nothing," says Eomeo; but oh what 
nothings ! As picture after picture was brought before yoa 
by Mr Eemble's skill, with the just emphasis thrown on 
every word, yet all spoken "trippingly on the tongue,** 
what objects that one might see or touch could be more 
real? I was disappointed in his reading of Juliet, Des- 
demona, &c. His heroines were spiritless, tearful — creatiires 
too merely tender, without distinction or individuality, all 
except Lady Macbeth, into whom I could not help think- 
ing some- of the spirit of his great sister, Mrs Siddons, was 
transfused. But, in truth, I cannot think it possible for 
any man's nature to simulate a woman's, or vict versd. 
Therefore it is that I have never cared very much to 
listen to "readings" of entire plays by any single person. 
I have sometimes given parts of them myself; but very 
rarely, and only, like Beatrice, "upon great persuasion." 

Beatrice. 375 

Pardon this digression. It was so much my way to live 
with the characters I represented, that, when I sit down 
to write, my mind naturally wanders off into things which 
happened to me in connection with the representation of 
them. It was some time before I again performed Beatrice, 
and then I had for my Benedick Mr James Wallack. He 
was by that time past the meridian of his life ; but he threw 
a spirit and grace into the part, which, added to his fine 
figure and gallant bearing, made him, next to Mr Charles 
Eemble although far beneath him, the best Benedick whom 
I have ever seen. Oh for something of the fire, the undying 
youthfulness of spirit, now so rare, the fine courtesy of 
bearing, which made the acting with actors of this type 
so delightful! 

By this time I had made a greater study of the play; 
moved more freely in my art, and was therefore able to throw 
myself into the character of Beatrice more completely tlian in 
the days of my novitiate. The oftener I played the charac- 
ter, the more it grew upon me. The view I had taken of 
it seemed also to find favour with my audiences. I well re- 
member the pleasure I felt, when some chance critic of my 
Beatrice wrote that she was "a creature, overflowing with 
joyousness, — raillery itself being in her nothing more than 
an excess of animal spirits, tempered by passing through a 
soul of goodness." That she had a soul, brave and generous 
as well as good, it was always my aim to show. All this 
was easy work to me on the stage. To do it with my pen 
is a far harder task; but I must try. 

It may be a mere fancy, but I cannot help thinking that 
Shakespeare found peculiar pleasure in the delineation of 

376 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Beatrice, and more especially in devising the encounters 
between her and Benedick. You remember what old Fuller 
says of the wit-combats between Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, 
in which he likens Jonson to a Spanish galleon, '' built high, 
solid, but slow ; " and Shakespeare to an English man-of-war, 
''lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, tacking about and 
taking advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and 
invention." It is just this quickness of wit and invention 
which is the special characteristic of both Benedick and 
Beatrice. In their skirmishes, each vies with each in trying 
to outflank the other by jest and repartee ; and, as is fitting, 
the victory is generaUy with the lady, whose adroitness in 
'' tacking about, and taking advantage of all winds," gives her 
the advantage even against an adversary so formidable as 

That Beatrice is beautiful, Shakespeare is at pains to 
indicate. If what Wordsworth says was ever true of any one, 
assuredly it was true of her, that 

'< Vital feelings of delight 
Had reared her form to stately height'' 

Accordingly we picture her as tall, and with the lithe elastic 
grace of motion which should come of a fine figure and high 
health. We are made to see very early that she is the sun- 
shine of her uncle Leonato's house. He delights in her quaint, 
daring way of looking at things ; he is proud of her, too, for 
with all her sportive and somewhat domineering ways, she is 
every inch the noble lady, bearing herself in a manner worthy 
of her high blood and courtly breeding. He knows how good 
and sound she is in heart no less than in head, — one of those 

Beatrice. 377 

strong natures which can be counted on to rise up in answer 
to a call upon their courage and fertility of resource in any 
time of difficulty or trouble. Her shrewd, sharp sayings have 
only a pleasant piquancy for him. Indeed, however much 
weak colourless natures might stand in awe of eyes so quick 
to detect a flaw, and a wit so prompt to cover it with ridicule, 
there must have been a charm for him and for all manly 
natures in the very peril of coming under the fire of her rail- 
lery. A young, beautiful, graceful woman, flashing out bril- 
liant sayings, charged with no real malice, but with just 
enough of a sting in them to pique the self-esteem of those at 
whom they are aimed, must always, I fancy, have a peculiar 
fascination for men of spirit. And so we see, at the very out- 
set, it was with Beatrice. Not only her uncle, but Don Pedro 
and the Count Claudio also, have the highest admiration of 
her. That she was either a vixen or a shrew was the last 
idea that could have entered their minds. " By my troth, a 
pleasant-spirited lady!" says Don Pedro; and the words 
express what was obviously the general impression of all who 
knew her best. 

How long Benedick and Beatrice have known each other 
before the play b^ins is not indicated. I think we may 
fairly infer that their acquaintance is of some standing. It 
certainly did not begin when Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, 
in passing through Messina (on his way probably to attack 
the Turks, with whom Spain, Austria, and Venice were at 
war about the period to which we may reasonably assign the 
action of the play), picked Benedick up, and attached him to 
his suite. They were obviously intimate before this. At all 
events there had been time for an antagonism to spring up 

378 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

between them, which waa natural, where both were witty, 
and both accustomed to lord it somewhat, as witty people are 
apt to do, over their respective drcles. Benedick ooold 
Bcarcely have failed to draw the fire of Beatrice by his 
avowed and contemptuous indifference to her sex, if \(j 
nothing else. To be evermore proclaiming, as we may be 
sure he did, just as much before he went to the wars as he 
did after his return, that he rated all women cheaply, was an 
offence which Beatrice, ready enough although she might be 
herself to make epigrams on the failings of her aez, was 
certain to resent. Was it to be borne, that he should set 
birriRflTf up as "a professed tyrant to her whole sex," and 
boast bis freedom from the vassalage to "love, the lord of 
all"? And this, too, when he had the efiiontery to tell 
hetBelf, " It is certain I am loved of all ladies, only yoa 

It is tme that Beatrice, when she is i^eBsed upon the 
point, has mnch the same pronounced notions about the male 
sex, and the bondage of marriage. But she does not, like 
Benedick, go about proclaiming them to all comers ; neither 
does she denounce the whole male sex for the faults or vices 
of the few. Besides, there has clearly been al»ut Benedick, 
in these early days, an air of confident self-assertion, a ten- 
dency to tcLlk people down, which have irritated Beatrice. 
The name, "Signor Montanto," borrowed from the language 
of the Italian fencing-sdiool, by which she asks after him in 
the first sentence she utters, and her announcement that she 
had " promised to eat all of Ms killing," seem to point to the 
first of these faults. And may we not take as an indication 
of the other her first remark to himself, " I wonder yon will 

Beatrice. 379 

still be talking, Signor Benedick ; nobody marks you ; " and 
also the sarcasm in her description of him to her uncle, as 
" too like my lady's eldest son, evermore tattling " ? 

What piques Beatrice, doubtless, is the undeniable fact that 
this contemptuous Benedick is a handsome, gallant young 
soldier, a general favourite, who makes his points with trenchant 
effect in the give and take of their wit-combats, and, in short, 
has more of the qualities to win the heart of a woman of spirit 
than any of the gallants who have come about her. She, on 
the other hand, has the attraction for him of being as clever 
as she is handsome, the person of all his circle who puts him 
most upon his mettle, and who pays him the compliment of 
replying upon his sharp sayings with repartees, the brilliancy 
of which he cannot but acknowledge, even while he smarts 
imder them. He is, besides, far from insensible to her beauty* 
as we see by what he says of her to Claudio when contrasting 
her with Hero. " There is her cousin, an she were not pos- 
sessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first 
of May doth the last of December." No wonder, therefore, 
that, as we see, they have often come into conflict, creating 
no small amusement to their friends, and to none more than 
to Leonato. When Beatrice, in the opening scene of the play, 
says so many biting things about Benedick, Leonato, anxious 
that the Messenger shall not carry away a false opinion of 
Iiim, says, '' You must not, sir, mistake my niece ; there is a 
kind of merry war between Signor Benedick and her ; they 
never meet but there's a skurmish of wit between them." 
life, perhaps, has not been so amusing to Leonato sinoe 
Signor Benedick went away. It is conceivable that Beatrice 
herself may have missed him, if for nothing else than for the 

380 Shakespearis Female Characters : 

and sarcasm which had called her own exubewmce of 
wit into plaj. 

We shall not, I beUere, do her justice nnleas we farm aome 
idea, such as I have suggested, <A the relations that have sab- 
sisted between her and Benedick before the play opens. It 
would be impossible otherwise to understand why he should 
be uppermost in her thoughts, when she hears of the sao- 
cessful issue of Don Pedro's expedition, so that her first 
question to the Messenger who brings the tidings is whether 
Benedick has come back with the rest Finding that he has 
returned unscathed "and as pleasant as ever he was," she 
proceeds to show him under no very flattering aspect Her 
uncle, knowing how very different Benedick is from the man 
she describes, tries to stop her by saying, " Faith, niece, you 
tax Signor Benedick too much ; but hell be meet with yon, 
I doubt not" This only stimulates her to such further 
travesty of his character, that the Messenger observes, ^I 
see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books." In sheer 
enjoyment of her own humour, she rejoins — ^**No: an he 
were, I would bum my study. But I pray you," she con- 
tinues, insensibly betraying her interest in him by the ques- 
tion, "who is his companion?" And when the Messenger 
answers, " The right noble Claudio," the humorous exaggera- 
tion of her language gives a delightful foretaste of what we 
may expect when she encounters Benedick himself : — 

" Lord ! He will hang upon him like a disease ; he is sooner 
canght than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. Heaven 
help the noble Claudio P If he have caught the Benedick, it will coat 
him a thousand pound ere he be cured. 

1 In some recent reproductions of Shakespeare's plays, the frequent repeti- 

Beatrice. 381 

Meu. I will hold friends with yon, lady. 
B€<U, Do, good friend. 
Leon, Tonll ne'er mn mad, niece. 
BeaL No, not till a hot January .** 


At this point Don Pedro enters with his suite, and Bene- 
dick among them. It is not long before he draws upon 
himself, and deservedly too, a shaft from the quiver of 
Beatrice's wit. When Don Pedro, turning to Hero, says, 
" I think this is your daughter," and Leonato rejoins, " Her 
mother hath many times told me so," Benedick strikes in 
with the somewhat impertinent freedom of a privileged jester, 
" Were you in doubt, Signor, that you asked her ? " Leonato 
retorts upon him, " Signor Benedick, no ; for then were you 
a child." " You have it full. Benedick," exclaims Don Pedro ; 
" we may guess by this what you are, being a man," — adding, 
"Truly, the lady fathers herself; be happy, lady! for you 
are like an honourable father." Benedick, a little stung by 
Leonato's repartee, now grows rude. " If Signor Leonato," he 
says, "be her father, she would not have his head on her 
shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she Ib." The others 
turn away to converse together, but Beatrice, indignant at 

tion of the name of the Deity has struck moet painfuUy upon my eir. I tup- 
pose, when Shakespeare wrote, the familiar use of this sacred name, like many 
other things repugnant to modem taste, was not generally oondenmed. In 
this play the name of " God " occurs continually, and upon the most triTial 
occasions. It so happens that it rises to Beatrice's lips more often than to any 
other's. In the books from which I studied, " Heaven " was everywhere sub- 
stituted for it ; and I confess the word sounds pleasanter and softer to my ear, 
besides being in the circumstances less irr e ve r e n t, I cannot help the feeling, 
though it may be thought fastidious. The name of the Deity, I think, should 
never rise lightly to the lips, or be used upon slight cause. There are, of 
course, occasions when, even upon the stage, it is the right word to use. Bat 
these are rare, and only where the prevailing strain of thought or emotion is 
high and solenm. 

382 Shakespeare's Female Characiers : 

what she conaiders his impeitinent speech to her nncle, ad- 
dresses him tauntingly with-— 

" I wonder joa will still be talking, Signoi Benedick ; nobody marks 

Bau. What, my dear Lad j Disdain I are 70a yet living t 
Btal, Ib it poesible dislEun shotild die, while she hath sadi meet food 

to feed it u Signor Benedick t Coniteay itself mnrt conreit to diinlMn 

if yoa come in hei presence." 

In the dialogue which ensues. Benedick falls at once into 
his old habit of boasting that women love him, hut that he 
cannot love them. In what he sajB, he is unmannerly 
rather than witty ; and finding very soon that he has the 
worst of the encounter, he is glad to break off the interview, 
telling Beatrice, " I would my horse had the speed of your 
tot^e, and so good a continner. But keep yoor way, o' 
heaven's name ; I have done." She is ready with her retort ; 
" You always end with a jade's trick ; I know you of old." 

When Beatrice leaves the scene, and Benedick remains 
behind with Claudio, he can give full vent to his disparage- 
ment of all womankind with no fear of rebuke. In vain 
does Claudio try to extract from him some encouragement in 
his admiration of Leonato'a daughter Hero. " In mine eye," 
says Claudio, " she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on." 
But Benedick can " see no such matter." Then it is he drops 
out the acknowledgment, that Beatrice excels her cousin in 
beauty as "the first of May doth the last of December," if 
only she were not "possessed with a fniy" — a qualification 
made in very soreness at the triumph her superior skill in 
the carte and tierce of hadinage has so recently given her 
over him. Claudio, who, on seeing Hero again, finds that 

Beatrice. 383 

the admiration he had felt for her before going to the war 
has deepened into an absorbing passion, writhes under the 
banter of his unsympathetic friend, and is veiy glad to have 
the support of Don Pedro, who now joins them. His coming 
is the signal for Benedick to start off afresh into protestations 
of his indifference to the whole female sex, and of his fixed 
determination to live a bachelor. When Don Pedro, who 
knows human nature a great deal too well to take such pro- 
testations for serious earnest, says, '' I shall see thee, ere I die, 
look pale with love," Benedick rejoins, "With anger, with 
sickness, or with hunger, my lord, but not with lova" Don 
Pedro adheres to his opinion, quoting the line, " In time the 
savage bull doth bear the yoke ; " and this draws from Bene- 
dick the protest, on which so much of the humour of what 
happens afterwards depends, — 

" Bemt, The savage bull may ; but if ever the sensible Benedick betr 
it, pluck off the bull's horns and set them in my forehead : and let me be 
vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write, < Here is good 
horse to hire,' let them signify under my sign, ' Here you may see Bene- 
dick the married man.' 

D. Ftdro, Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou 
wilt quake for this shortly. 

Bm/t, I look for an earthquake too, then." 

Benedick gone, Claudio is free to open the state of his heart 
to his patron and friend, Don Pedro. He fears his liking 
may seem too sudden, and explains that it was of old stand- 
ing. Before he had gone with the Prince on the expedition 
just ended, he had looked on Hero 

*' With a soldier's eye, 
That liked, but had a rougher task in hand 
Than to drive liking to the name of love. 
But now I am retum'd, and that war-thoughts 

384 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

Have left their places yacant, in their rooma 
Come thronging soft and delicate desires. 
All prompting me how fiair young Hero ia, 
Saying, I liked her ere I went to wars." 

This being the state of his heart, why should he not have 
urged his suit in person ? Instead of doing so, however, he at 
once adopts Don Pedro's suggestion, that she should be wooed 
by proxy : — 

^ I know we shall have revelling to-night : 
I will assume thy part in some disguise, 
And tell £Edr Hero I am Claudio ; 
And in her bosom 111 unclasp my heart, 
And take her hearing prisoner with the force 
And strong encounter of my amorous tale." 

Brides for princes have often been wooed by proxy, and with 
results not always satisfactory to the princes, but here the 
order of things is reversed. Surely the man who could leave 
another to plead for him in such a cause can have no great 
strength of character ; and that this is true of Claudio seems 
to me to be very clearly shown by his subsequent conduct 
Presently we see how easily he allows himself to be swayed, 
as weak men will, by what other people say, when Don Pedro's 
brother, Don John, to gratify the personal grudge he feels for 
having been supplanted by Claudio in his brother's regard, 
persuades him that Don Pedro is playing him false, and woo- 
ing Hero for himself. The discovery that this was merely 
a malicious fiction would have put most men upon their guard 
against believing any further innuendo from the same quarter. 
But Claudio is still perfectly ready to give credence to Don 
John's subsequent accusation against Hero, and to jump to 
the conclusion that it is true, upon evidence which could have 

Beatrice. 385 

surely misled no manly and generous mind. The very look, 
morose and vindictive, of Don John, ought to have inspired 
him with distrust. What that look was, Beatrice puts vividly 
before us in a sentence or two at the opening of the second 
act. The whole passage is delightful 

'^ Ltfmaio, Was not Count John here at sapper 1 

AnUmio, I saw him not 

Beatrice, How tartly that gentletnan looks ! I never can see him but 
I am heart-burned an hour after. 

Hero, He is of a very melancholy disposition. 

Beat, He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway 
between him and Benedick ; the one is too like an image, and says 
nothing ; and the other too like my lady's eldest son, evermore 

Leon. Then half Signor Benedick's tongue in Count John's mouth, 
and half Count John's melancholy in Signor Benedick's face — 

Beat. With a good leg, and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in 
his purse, such a man could win any woman in the world, — if he could 
get her good-will. 

Leon, By my troth, niece, thou wUt never get thee a husband, if thou 
be so shrewd of tongue. 

Beat, . . . For the which blessing I am upon my knees every morning 
and evening. Lord ! I could not endure a husband with a beard on his 
face. . . . 

Leon, You may light upon a husband that hath no beard. 

Beat. What should I do with him ? Dress him in my apparel, and 
make him my waiting-gentlewoman ? He that hath a beard is more than 
a youth ; and he that hath no beard is less than a man ; and he that is 
more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am 
not for him." 

Who does not see what a pleasant person Beatrice must have 
been in her uncle's home, with all this power of saying the 
quaint and unexpected things which bubble up from an un- 
controllable spirit of enjoyment ? Her frankness must indeed 
have been a pleasant foil to the somewhat characterless and 


386 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

over-geatle Hero. See how fearlessly she presently tella Hero 
not to take a husband of her father's chooaing, unless he 
pleases herself. She has just heard of the Prince's intention 
to make suit to Hero at the coming masked ball ; and when 
Antonio tells Hero that he trusts she will not follow Beatrice's 
creed, but " be ruled by her father," Beatrice rejoins : — 

" 7ee, faith ; it is my coubIii'b duty to m&ke cnrteef , atid aay, ' Aa it 
pleaae yon : ' — bat yet for all tliat, coiuiii, let him be a handaoiDB fellow, 
or else make another curtsey, and say, ' Father, as it pleaw me I ' " 

Leouato loves Beatrice too well to be angry at this instigation 
to possible rebellion, and only answers her with the words, 
" Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband." 
Beatrice is by no means at the end of her resources. She is 
bent on making Light of all matrimonial projects. In what 
she goes on to say we have the counterpart of what Benedick 
in the previous scene had said to Don Pedro and Claadio; 
and so the groimdwork is laid for the coming contrast between 
their protestations of resolute celibacy and their subsequent 

"Beat. Not till Heaven make men of some other metal than eartb. 
Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant 
dost I To make account of her life to a clod of waywaid marl t No, 
uncle, 111 none. Adam's sons are my brethren ; end truly I hold it a 
sin to match in my kindred. 

Lfm.. Daughter, remember what I lold you. If the Prince do aolicit 
you in that kind, you know your answer. 

Btat. The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in 
good time. If the Prince be too importunate, tell him there is meoanie 
in everything, and so dance out the answer. For, hear me, Hero; 
wooing, wedding, and repenting is as a Scotch jig, & metunire, and a 
cinque-pace. The first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and foil 
as fantastical ; the wedding, oiannerly-modeet, as a measure, fall of state 

Beatrice. 387 

and ancientry ; and then comes repentance, and, with hiB bad legs, fidk 
into the cinque-pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave. 

Leon, Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly. 

Btai, I have a good eye, uncle : I can see a church by daylight" 

Beatrice is now in the gayest spirits and in the very mood 
to encounter her old enemy, Benedick. He appears forthwith 
at the revel at Leonato's house, masked like the other guests. 
Benedick has thrown himself in her way; he has danced 
with her ; and thinking she does not penetrate the disguise 
of his domino and mask, has been telling her he had been 
informed that her wit was borrowed and her temper dis- 
dainful. She knows him at once, but affects not to do so ; 
and thus in the dialogue that follows between them the actress 
has the most delightful scope for bringing out the address, the 
graceful movement, the abounding joyousness which makes 
Beatrice the paragon of her kind. With a plaintive, ill-used 
air she asks him — 

" Btal. Will you not tell me who told yon so ? 
BvM, (tn afeigntd voice). No, you shall pardon me. 
Beat. Nor will you not tell me who you are ? 
Bene, Not now. 

Beat. That I was disdainful, — and that I had my good ^dt out of the 
* Hundred MeiTy Tales.'" 

Then, as if the truth had just flashed upon her, she con- 
tinues — 

" Well, this was Signor Benedick that said so. 

Bene, Whaf s he ? 

Beat, I am sure you know him well enough. 

Bene, Not I, believe me. 

Beat, Did he never make you laugh ? 

Bine, I pray you, what is he ? " 

388 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

By this time Benedick hae b^ou to wish himself anywherB 
but where he is. But his restlessness only stimolates Beatrice 
to take her full revenge upon him, by presenting him in the 
light which to a high-spirited man would be intolerable. 
Never again shall he venture to say she had her wit ont of 
'The Hundred Merry Tales.' 

" Btai. Why, he is the Prince's jwter : a very doll fool ; «mly his 

gift 18 in devising impoflrible alandera. None but libertiDes delight 
in >»'m ; and the commendation is not in his wit but in his vilUiny; 
fot he both pleuea men and angers them, and then thej langh at him 
and beat him. . . ." 

Benedick tries to break away from her, saying, "When I 
know the gentleman, 111 tell him what you say;" but he is 
not yet allowed to escape. 

" Do, do \ " uf s Beatrice, mocking him. " Hell but break a com- 
parison or two on me ; which, peiadventure, not marked, or not laughed 
at, strikes him into melancholy ; and then there's a partridge wing 
saved, for the fool will eat no snpper that night" 

With this Beatrice lets him go ; but how deeply her barbed 
shafts have pierced him is seen auon, when he returns to the 
scene. He has been laughing at Claadio for, as he believes, 
letting Don Fedro win bis mistress Hero for himself ; but no 
sooner does Claudio leave him, than the gibes of the Xady 
Beatrice recur to his memory : — 

" That my lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me ! The 
Prince's fool ! Ha ! it may be, that I go under that title, because I 
am merry. Yea ; but so ; I am apt to do myself wrong. I am not so 
reputed. It is nought but the bitter disposition of Beatrice, that puts 
the world intu her person, nnd so gives me out Well, I'll be revenged 

Beatrice. 389 

" As he may ! " There is an amusing despair in the confession. 
He feels that Beatrice has fairly driven him off the field. 
This becomes more apparent when Don Pedro breaks in 
upon his musing with these unwelcome words, "The lady 
iieatrice Iiath a quarrel to you ; the gentleman that danced 
with her told her she is much wronged by you." Poor 
Benedick at once lets out the secret, which Beatrice had 
kept from the Prince, that the gentleman in question was 
Iiimself. Indignation makes him eloquent and witty even 
beyond his wont. 

**0, she misused me past the endurance of a block. An oak, but 
with one green leaf on it, would have answered her. My very visor 
began to assume life and scold with her. She told me, not thinking I 
had been myself," — ah, where was then his vaunted shrewdness % — ''that 
I was the Prince's jester, and that I was duller than a great thaw, 
huddling jest upon jest, with such impossible conveyance upon me, 
that I stood like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me. 
She speaks poniards, and every word stabs. ... I would not marry 
her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before 
he tmnsgressed." 

Not marry her! Are we to read in this, that Benedick 
Iiad at some time nourished dreams about her, not wholly 
consistent with his creed of celibacy? Not unlikely, if we 
couple this remark with wliat he had said to Claudio about 
her beauty as compared with Hero's. But, while they speak, 
Beatrice is seen approaching with her Uncle, Claudio, and 
Hero, and in the same spirit of exquisite exaggeration Bene- 
dick, who in Iiis present mood will not run the risk of a 
fresh encounter, asks Don Pedro if he will not "command 
him any service to the world's end?" offering to go any- 
wliere, do anything, " rather than hold three words' conferenoe 

390 Shakespeare's FemaU Characters : 

with this h&Tpy," and makes hia escape, exclaiming as he 
goes, " God, sir, here's a diah I love not ; I cannot endme 
mj Lady Tongue." All this time Benedick quite foists 
that he was himself to blame, if Beatrice has dealt abai|dy 
with him ; for had he not given her the severest provocation 
by attacking her under the shelter of his mask ? If volubility 
of speech were her sin, how much greater was his I Bich 
as her invention is, and fertile her vocabulary, Benedick 
excels her in both. But what great talker ever knew his 
own weakness? 

Meanwhile Beatrice has been requested by Don Pedro to 
bring Count Claudio. She has evidently found ont, by tiie 
way, the secret of his sulleuness; and when Don Pedro 
inquires the cause, she puts the case with her nsnal aptness 
and pleasantly, "The Count is neither sad, nor sick, nor 
merry, nor well: but civil. Count, civil as an orange, and 
something of that jealous complexion," He is speedily 
disabused of his suspicions, and made happy by Don Pedro's 
assurance that Hero has been won for him, and her father's 
"goodwill obtained." 

Despite of all that she has said against manit^ for her- 
self, Beatrice, who is in Hero's secret, is glad of a result 
which makes her cousin happy. " Speak, Count," she says 
to Claudio, who has scarcely recovered from his anrpriae, 
"'tis your cue." And when he does speak, and very well 
too, she turns with a similar adjuration to Hero. 

"Btat. Speak, couain ; or, if 70U cannot, stop his mouth with a kin, 
and let him not speak neither. 

v. Ptdro. In faith, lady, you have a merry heart. 

Beat. Vea, my lord : I thank it, poor fool, it keepe on the windy 
side of care." 

Beatrice. 391 

But she is Yor the moment too intent on watching the lovers 
to tliink of herself, and she continues — 

'* My cousin tells him in his ear that he is in her heart 

CIomL And so she doth, cousin. 

Btai, Gkxxl Lord, for alliance 1 Thus goes every one to the world but 
I, and I am sunburnt ; I may sit in a comer, and cry, heigho ! for a 

D, Pedro. Lady Beatrice, I will get you one. 

BeiU, I would rather have one of your faUier's getting. Hath your 
grace ne'er a brother like you? Your fiither got excellent husbands, 
if a maid could come by them. 

D. Pedro, Will you have me, lady I 

Beat. No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days. 
Your grace is too costly to wear every day." 

Here, true lady as she is, it crosses her mind that her high 
spirits may have carried her too far, and may lead the Prince 
to misunderstand her. With the bright and innocent frank- 
ness which obviously gives her a special charm in his eyes, 
she prays his forgiveness. 

'< I beseech your grace, pardon me ! I was bom to speak all mirth, and 
no matter. 

D. Pedro. Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best becomes 
you ; for, out of question, you were bom in a merry hour.'* 

With just the slightest inflection of pathos in her voice 
Beatrice replies — 

^ No, sure, my lord, my mother cry'd ; but then there was a star 
danced, and under that was 1 bom. Cousins, Heaven give you joy ! " 

Her uncle now asks her '* to look to some things he had 
told her of.'' Be sure Beatrice was the presiding spirit in 
his household. How sweetly and readily does she go upon 
Ids bidding! "I cry you mercy, uncle;" then curtseying 



392 Shakespeare' s Female Characters : 

to the Prince of Aragon, " By your grace's leave ! " to excuse 
herself for leaving thus abruptly. When she has gone, Don 
Pedro sums up his impression of her in the words, " By my 
troth, a pleasant-spirited lady." In answer to his remark 
that Beatrice "cannot endure to hear tell of a husband," 
Leonato says, "0, by no means: she mocks all her wooers 
out of suit ! " Don Pedro has, however, seen enough of the 
relations between her and Benedick to conclude that a worse 
tiling might befall them, than that their witty warfare should 
be turned to wooing. He has obviously a strong regard for 
both, and he " would fain have it a match." She, he says, 
"were an excellent wife for Benedick;" and Benedick, a 
man "of noble strain, of approved valour, and confirmed 
honesty," as he knows him to be, is " not the unhopefuUest 
husband that he knows." So, to beguile the week that 
is to elapse before Claudio's marriage, he undertakes '*to 
bring them into a mountain of afifection, the one with the 
other." Hero, acting upon the suggestions Don Pedro will 
give her, is so to " humour " her cousin, " that she shall fall 
in love with Benedick ; " while he himself, along with Leonato 
and Claudio, are so to " practise on Benedick that, in despite 
of liis quick wit and his queasy stomach," he sliall fall in 
love with Beatrice. 

While they are perfecting their little well-meant plot, Don 
John and his retainer, Borachio, are hatching theirs for de- 
stroying Hero's reputation, and breaking ofif her marriage, hy 
making Don Pedro and Count Claudio believe that, on the 
night before her wedding-day, they see Borachio leave her 
chamber by the window. The way in which the temporary 
success of tliis second plot is made to work most effectually 



Beatrice. 393 

for the permanent success of the first, is one of the many 
proofs of Shakespeare's transcendent skill in dramatic con- 

There is no need to speak at length of the admirable scene 
in which Don Pedro, Leonato, and Count Claudio persuade 
Benedick that Beatrice dotes upon him, while '' she hath in 
all outward behaviours seemed ever to abhor him," and " will 
die ere she will make her love known." So cleverly is the 
dialogue managed, that Benedick must have had a heart of 
stone, as well as superhuman acuteness, had he not been 
moved by it He does not easily fall into the snare. Don 
Pedro alone could not have deceived him. But how can he 
refuse to believe Leonato, " the white-bearded fellow," whom 
he knows to be devoted to Beatridb ? Was it conceivable, that 
he, her uncle and guardian, should be speaking pure fiction, 
when he says that ''she loves Benedick with an enraged 
affection, — it is past the infinite of thought"? And why 
should Claudio, his own familiar and trusted friend, be in the 
same tale, unless he had really learned from Hero, as he says 
he has, the true state of Beatrice's affection, and "that she 
will die ere she make her love known " ? 

The conspirators have not spared Benedick, while extolling 
Beatrice — dwelling much on his scornful and contemptuous 
spirit, — Don Pedro, at the same time that he protests he 
" loves him well," adding very craftily a wish, that Benedick 
"would modestly examine himself, to see how much he is 
unworUiy to have so good a lady." Benedick's first thought 
is not of his own shortcomings. In this, as we presently see, 
he is very different from Beatrice. He at once, with pardon- 
able complacency, accepts the fact that Beatrice loves him ; 

394 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

in that belief all bis fonner invectives against ber are foi^tten, 
^ and be feela her love " must be requited." She ia no longer 
" Lady Disdain," " the fury," " tbe harpy." On the contrary 
she is " fair," " virtuous," " wise, bat in loving him." In any 
case be " will be horribly in love with her ; " and, 90 possessed 
is he with tJie triumphant feeling that he stands high in her 
regard, that when she presently appears to tell him she is 
"sent f^ainst her will to bid him come in to dinner/' he 
actually "spies some marks of love in her," and finds a 
meaning flattering to the thought in tbe very phrases which 
she studiously oses to prove with what reluctance she had 
come upon tbe errand. He leaves the scene, protesting, " I 
will go get her picture ! " 

Now it is Beatrice's turn to fall into a similar snare. It ia 
laid for her by Hero and her gentlewoman Ursula ; and in 
the very exuberance of a power that runs w^out effort into 
the channel of melodious verse, Shakespeare passes fnmi the 
terse vivid prose of tbe previous scene into rhythmical lines, 
steeped in music and illumined by fancy. Margaret is des- 
patched to tell Beatrice tliat her cousin and Ursula are talking 
about her, aud to 

" Bid her steal into the pleached bower. 
Where boneyBuclcleB, ripened by the sun. 
Forbid the ena to enter." 

And anou we see her 

" Like a lapwiDg, ran 
Close by the ground, to hear their confersnce." 

It is of course an overwhelming surprise to Beatrice to hear 
that " Benedick loves her so entirely." She is at first incredu- 
lous. Still her attention is fairly arrested. She listens with 

Beatrice. 395 

eager curiosity ; but b^^ to feel a tightening at the heart 
when her cousin says — 

" But Nature never framed a woman's heart 
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice : 
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes, 
Misprising what they look on ; and her wit 
Values itself so highly, that to her 
All matter else seems weak. She cannot love, 
Nor take no shape nor project of affection, 
She is so self-endeared. 

Un. Sure, I think so ; 

And therefore, certainly, it were not good, 
She knew his lore, leat she make sport of it" 

Hero, with a power of witty and somewhat merciless sarcasm, 
new to Beatrice in her gentle cousin, drives still further home 
the charge of pride and scomfulness : — 

^ Why, you speak truth : I never yet saw man, 
How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featured. 
But she would spell him backward : if fair-faced, 
She'd swear the gentleman should he her sister ; 
If black, why nature, drawing of an antic. 
Made a foul blot ; if tall, a lance ill-headed ; 
If low, an agate veiy vilely cut ; 
If speaking, why, a vane blown with all wmds ; 
If silent, why, a block moved with none." 

All this makes Beatrice smile, for it reminds her of her own 
thoughts about some of her unsuccessful wooers. But what 
follows sends the blood in upon her heart : — 

^ So turns she every man the wioag side out ; 
And never gives to truth and virtue that ^ 

Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.'' 

Why, why, if this be so, has not Hero let her hear of it from 


396 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

herself ? The feeling of shame and bitter self-reproach deepei 
as Hero goes on : — 

" To be 80 odd, and from all fashions, 
As Beatrice is, cannot be commendable : 
But who dare tell her so ? If I should speak, 
She would mock me into air : O, she would laugh me 
Out of myself, press me to death with wit. 
Therefore let Benedick, like covered fire, 
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly — 
It were a better death than die with mocks.'' 

We know that all this is overstated for a purpose. Br 
Beatrice has no such suspicion. She is wounded to the quid 
and Hero's words strike deeper, because Beatrice has up t 
this time seen no signs of her cousin having entertained th: 
harsh view of her character. The cup of self-reproach is f ul 
as Hero proceeds : — 

" No, 1 will rather go to Benedick, 
And counsel him to fight against his passion. 
And, truly, I'll devise some honest slanders 
To stain my cousin with : one doth not know 
How much an ill word doth empoison liking." 

This was too much, and it seemed to me, as I listened, as if 
could endure no more, but must break from my concealniei 
and stop their cruel words. Ursula's more kindly rejoinder 
some balm to Beatrice : — 

" 0, do not do your cousin such a wrong. 
She cannot be bo much without true judgment, 
(Having so swift and excellent a wit 
As she \& piized to have) as to refuse 
So rare a gentleman as Signor Benedick." 

What follows is not unwelcome to her ears, for it is all 
praise of Benedick as one who — 

Beatrice. 397 

" For shape, for bearing, argument, and valour, 
Qoes foremost in report through Italy." 

When they are gone, and Beatrice comes from her hiding- 
place in "the pleached bower," she has become to herself 
another woman. It is not so much that her nature is 
changed, as that it has been suddenly developed. She is 
dazed, astounded at what she has overheard. " What fire is in 
mine ears ? " she exclaims ; " Can this be true ? " Am I such 
a self-assured, scornful, disdainful, vainglorious creature ? Is 
it thus I appear even to those who know me best, and whom 
I love the best ? Do I look down contemptuously on others 
from the height of my own deserts? Am I so "self -en- 
deared " that I see worth and cleverness only in myself ? Do 
I carry myself thus proudly? Have I been living in a 
delusion ? Have my foolish tongue and giddy humour pre- 
sented me in a light so untrue to my real self ? What an 
awakening! She does not think of others. She feels no 
shade of bitterness against Hero, her reproaches are all 
against herself. " Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so 
much ? " There must be an end to this, and quickly. 

" Contempt, farewell ! and maiden pride, adieu ! 
No glory lives behind the back of such.** 

After this complete self-abasement comes fresh wonder, in 
the remembrance of what Hero and Ursula have said of 
Benedick's infatuation for her. That he likes her she has 
probably suspected more than once; and now she learns 
that it is her wicked mocking spirit which has alone pre- 
vented him from making open avowed of his devotion. All 
this shall be changed. If, despite the past, he indeed loves 

39^ Shakespet^s FemaU Characters: 

ber, lie most be rewarded. No one knows bis good qnalities 
better than she does. She will accept his abortcomings — 
for what gnve faults of her own has she not to conect f — 
and for the fntoie tooch them so graitly, that in time eitfaa- 
Uiej will vanish, or abe will hardly wish tbem away. Haioe- 
forth die most give him snch encooiagement as will make 
him happy in the avowal of bia love. 

" And, Boiedick, lore on, I will requite Uuc^ 
Taming my wilil beait to th; lortng hand. 

If Ihoa dnt lore, mj kindnoa dull indte tbee 
To tie our km np in a hoi j band : 

For othtn aaj thoa doat deaore; and I 

Believe it bdter than lepoitinglj'.' 

It is now that for the first time we see tbe andei^ii^ 
nobleness and generosity of Beatrice leap into view. If Att 
were indeed what Hero described — still more, if this wae; as 
Hero bad said, the general impresKion — sbe might weO be 
excnsed, had she asked, why Hero, her boscan friend, her 
" bedfellow," as we are subsequently told, had never hinted 
at taolta so serious ? Bat Beatrice neither reproaches her 
csonsio, nor seeks to extenoate the defects laid to her charge. 
She trusts Hero implicitly, and being herself incapable of 
deceit or misrepresentation, she plaids Hero's heavy indict- 
ment as a thing not to be impugned. Tbe fatore, she re- 
solves, shall make it impossible for any one to entertain snch 
a conception of her as Hero has described. 

This is the toming-point in Beatrice's life, and in tbe 
representation it aboold be shown by her whole demeanoor, 
and especially by the way the lines jost quoted are spoken, 
that a marked change has come over her since, " like a lap- 

Beatrice. 399 

wing," she stole into the bower of honeysuckles. Thus the 
audience will be prepared for the development of the high 
qualities which she soon afterwards displays. 

She is, then, one of the brilliant group that accompanies 
Hero to the altar. When Claudio brings forward his accusa- 
tion against his bride, Beatrice is struck dumb with amaze- 
ment. Indignation at the &lsehood of the charge, and at 
the unmanliness that could wait for such a moment to make 
it, is mingled with the keenest sympathy for Leonato as well 
as for Hero. I never knew exactly for which of the two my 
sympathy should most be shown, and I found myself by the 
side now of the one, now of the other. Hero had her friends, 
her attendants round her ; but the kind uncle and guardian 
stands alone. Strangely enough, his brother Antonio, who 
plays a prominent part afterwards, is not at the wedding. 

Beatrice's blood is all on fire at the disgrace thus brought 
upon her family and herself. When she hears the vile 
slander supported by Don Pedro ; and when Don John, that 
sour-visaged hypocrite whom she dislikes by instinct, with 
insolent cruelty throws fresh reproaches upon the fainting 
Hero, her eye falls on Benedick, who stands apart bewildered, 
looking on the scene with an air of manifest distress. In 
that moment, as I think, Beatrice makes up her mind that he 
shall be her cousin's champion. Were she not a woman, she 
would herself enter the lists to avenge the wrong; since she 
cannot do this directly, she will do it indirectly by enlisting 
this new-found lover in her cause. How happy a coincidence 
it is, that Hero has so lately brought the fact of Benedick's 
devotion to her knowledge I All remembrance of the harsh, 
the imkind accusations against herself with which the in- 

4CX) Skakespear^s Female Characters : 

formation was mixed up, has vanished from her mind, 
was Hero who revealed to her the tinsuspected love 
Benedick, — at least its earnestness and depth, — and He 
shall be the iirst to benefit by it. 

Benedick is so present to her thoughts, that when He 
faintfi in her anus, she calls to him, as well as to Leonato ai 
the Friar, to come to her assistance. " Help, uncle I Her 
why, Hero! Uncle! Signer Benedick! Friar!" Nor is 1 
immoved by what he has noted in Beatrice. Her dei 
emotion has touched him, and he begins to waver in li 
belief in the charge against Hero when he hears Beatri 
ezdaim, with a voice resonant with the energy ot aasup 
conviction, "0, on my soul, my cousin is belied!" He 
not disinclined to accept the Friar's suggestion tiiat " there 
some strange misprisioa in the princes," and his instinct 
once leads him to suspect that they have been the dupes 
Don John. 

" Two of them have the very bent of honoor ; 
And if theii' wiadom be mialed in this, 
The practice of it lives in Jolm the bastard, 
Whose spirits t«il in frame of villainies." 

Possessed as Benedick was with tliis idea of the man, it 
obvious that, if his friends had taken him into their counse 
they would never have fallen into Don John's toils. Bei 
dick's words were, no doubt, the echo of Beatrice's oi 
thought. She would be grateful for them, and still more I 
the tone and manner of Iiis parting speech to Leonato, so w 
fitted as these are to raise him in her esteem ; — 

" Sigiiot Iieonato, let the friar advise J-ou : 
And though you know my inwaidness and love 

Beatrice. 401 

Is very much nnto the Prince and Clandio, 
Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this 
As secretly and justly as your soul 
Should with your body." 

What a conflict of strong emotions used to come over me 
when acting this scene! It begins solemnly yet happily; 
but oh, how soon all is changed ! One may imagine that to 
the marriage of the daughter of the Governor of Messina the 
whole nobility of the place would be invited. Claudio, we 
have been told, has an uncle living in Messina. He and all 
Claudio's kinsfolk would be present, and the people of the 
city would naturally throng to the ceremony. Think what 
it was for the bride to be brought to shame before such an 
assemblage, — to be given back into her father's hands, and 
branded with unchastity! What consternation to even the 
mere lookers-on — what dismay to those more directly con- 
cerned ! Hero is at first so stunned, so bewildered, so unable 
to realise what is meant by the accusation, that Bhe cannot 
speak. When Claudio, assuming conscious guilt from her 
silence, went on with his charge, I could hardly keep stilL 
My feet tingled, my eyes flashed lightning upon the princes 
and Claudio. Oh that I had been her brother, her male 
cousin, and not a powerless woman ! How I looked around 
in quest of help, and gladly saw Benedick standing apart 
from the rest! And how shame seemed piled on shame 
when that hateful Prince John, as he left the scene, said to 
the victim of his villainy — 

" Thus, pretty lady, 
I am sorry for thy much misgovemment " ! 

Oh for a flight of deadly arrows to send after him! Then 


402 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

Claudio's parting speech, with its fiowerj sentimentalism, 
so out of place in one who had played so merciless a part, 
sickened me mth contempt. 

How gladly I saw these shallow maligners disappear ! 
Something must now be learned or done to dear away tlieir 
slander. I felt with what chagrin Beatrice, when asked, was 
obliged to confess, that last night she was not by the side of 
Hero — 

"Although, until lut night 
I have this twelTetnonth been her bedfellow." 

And yet how simple to myself was the explanation ! Each 
had to commone with herself, — Hero on the serious step she 
was taking — a step requiring "many orisons to move the 
heavens to smile upon her state ; " and Beatrice, to think on 
what had been revealed to her of her own shortcomings, as 
well as of Benedick's undreamed-of attachment to herself. 
At such a time hours of perfect rest and solitaiy meditation 
would be welcome and needful to them both. 

But Beatrice is no dreamer. The Friar's plan of giving 
out that Hero is dead, and so awakening Claudio's remorse, 
will not wipe out the wrong done to her cousin or the 
indignity offered to her kin. Therefore she lets her friends 
retire, lingering behind, to the surprise, possibly, of some who 
might expect that she would go with them to comfort Hero. 
She is bent on finding for her a better comfort than lies in 
words. Benedick, she feels sure, will remain if she does. 
And he, how could lie do otherwise ? This beautiful woman, 
whom he has hitherto known all joyousness, and seeming 
indifference to the feelings of others, has revealed herself 
under a new aspect, and one that has drawn him towards 

Beatrice. 403 

her more than he has ever been drawn towards woman 
before. He has noted how all through this terrible scene 
she has been the only one to stand by, to defend, to try to 
cheer the slandered Hero. Her courage and her tenderness 
have roused the chivalry of his nature. So deeply is he 
moved, that I believe, even if he had not previously been 
influenced by what he had been told of Beatrice's love, he 
would from that time have been her devoted lover and 

There should be tenderness in his voice as he accosts her. 
" Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while ? " But it is 
only when she hears him say, " Surely, I do believe your fair 
cousin is wronged," that she dashes her tears aside, and can 
give voice to the thought that has for some time been upper- 
most in her mind. 

" Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her ! 
Bent, Is there any way to show such friendship ? 
BtaL A very even way, but no such friend. 
Bent, May a man do it ? 
BtoA, It is a man's office, but not yours." 

These words are not to be regarded, as by some they have 
been, as spoken in Beatrice's usually sarcastic vein. She 
only means that, being neither a kinsman, nor in any way 
connected with Hero's family, he cannot step forward to do 
her right. In this sense the words are understood by Bene- 
dick, who takes the most direct way of removing the diffi- 
culty by the avowal of his love. " I do love nothing in the 
world so well as you. Is not that strange?" After what 
she has overheard, this makes her smile, but it causes her no 
surprise. With the thought of Hero's vindication uppermost 

404 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

in her heart, what can she do but answer Benedick's avo 
bj her own ? And jet to make it is by no means easy, as 
see by her words, somewhat in the old vein : — 

<< As strange as the thing I know not It were as possible for n 
say I loved nothing so well as you'' (half confessing, and then m 
drawing), — " but believe me not, and yet I lie not " (again yielding, 
again falling back). '* I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing/' 




To extricate herself from her embarrassment she turns ai 
from the subject with the words, spoken with tremul 
emotion, "I am sorry for my cousin." But Benedick 
impatient for a clearer assurance. Observe how skilfu 
even while she humours him, she leads him on to the pc 
on which she has set her mind : — 

*'*' Bene, By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me. 

BecU. Do not swear by it, and eat it 

Bene. I will swear by it that you love me ; and I will make him ei 
that says I love not you. 

Beat, Will you not eat your word 1 

Bene, With no sauce that can be devised to it I protest I love t1 

Beat. Why, then, Heaven forgive me ! 

Bene, What offence, sweet Beatrice ? 

Beat, You have stayed me in a happy hour ; I was about to protc 
loved you. 

Bene, And do it with all thy heart 

BecU, I love you with so much of my heart, that none is lef 

And now that their mutual confessions have been so witi 
and earnestly given, Beatrice recurs to what she has never 
a moment forgotten, — the wrongs of her cousin, the outrai 
honour of the house of which she is herself a scion, the st 
on its escutcheon. These must be avenged, and, if Bened 

Beatrice. 405 

indeed loves her, it must be he who shall stand forth as the 
avenger, — for, as her etccepted lover, that will be his " office." 
So when he says, " Come, bid me do any thing for thee ! *' in 
a breath she exclaims, '' Kill Claudio ! " This demand, spoken 
with an intensity which leaves no room to doubt that she 
is thoroughly in earnest, staggers Benedick. Claudio is his 
chosen friend, they have just gone through the perils of 
war together, and he replies, " Ha ! not for the wide 
world ! " " You kill me to deny ; farewell," says Beatrice, 
and is about to leave him. In vain he importunes her to 
remain ; and now he is made to see indeed the strength and 
earnestness of her nature. All the pent-up passion, that has 
shaken her during the previous scene, breaks out : — 

" Bwi, In faith, I will go. 

BtfM, Well be friends first. 

Beai, Yon dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy. 

BtfM, Is Claudio thine enemy ? 

BtaX, Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, 
scorned, dishonoared my kinswoman ? that I were a man I What ! 
hear her in hand until they come to take hands ; and then with public 
accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour, — Heaven, that I 
were a man 1 I would eat his heart in the market-place ! 

BtfM. Hear me, Beatrice ; 

BeaJt. Talk with a man out of a window ? A proper saying ! 

B«i«. Nay, but Beatrice ; 

BeaX, Sweet Hero !— She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone. 

Bemt. Beat 

BwX, Princes and Counties! Surely a princely testimony, a good 
Count-Confect, a sweet gallant surely ! that I were a man for his 
sake ! or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake ! But 
manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men 
are only turned into tongues, and trim ones toa He is now as valiant 
as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it ! I cannot be a man 
with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving." 

4o6 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

In her anger and distress Beatrice will not, cannot listen 
to what Benedick would say. At last he has a chance, when 
her tears are streaming, and her invectives are exhausted. 
"By this hand, I love thee!" he says, and he has been 
loving her more and more all through her burst of generous 
and eloquent indignation. " Use it for my love," she replies, 
still quivering with emotion, " some other way than swearing 
by it ! " Then with all seriousness he asks her, " Think you 
in your soul the Coimt Claudio hath wronged Hero ? " As 
serious and solemn is her answer, "Tea, as sure as I 
have a thought or a soul!" His rejoinder is all she could 
desire: — 

*' Enough, I am engaged ; I will challenge him. I will kiss your 
hand, and so leave yon. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a 
dear account As you hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort 
your cousin. I must say she is dead. And so, farewelL" 

And so they part, each with a much higher respect for the 
other than before. Thanks to the poet's skill, the trouble 
that has fallen on Leonato's house has served to bind them 
to each other by the strongest tie, and to make their mutual 
regard and ultimate union only in the very slightest d^ree 
dependent on the plot devised by their friends. 

It has been, I know, considered by some critics a blemish 
in Beatrice, that at such a moment she should desire to risk 
her lover's life. How little can such critics enter into her 
position, or understand the feelings by which a noble woman 
would in such circumstances be actuated ! What she would 
have done herself, h{td she been a man, in order to punish 
the traducer of her kinswoman and bosom friend, and to 
vindicate the family honour, she has a right to expect her 


Beatrice. 407 

engaged lover will do for her. Her honour, as a member 
of the family, is at stake ; and what woman of spirit would 
think so meanly of her lover as to doubt his readiness to 
risk his life in such a cause? The days of chivalry were 
not gone in Shakespeare's time ; neither, I trust and believe, 
are they gone now. I am confident that all women who are 
worthy of a brave man's love will understand and sympathise 
with the feeling that animated Beatrice. Think of the wrong 
done to Hero, — ^the unnecessary aggravation of it by choosing 
such a moment for publishing what Beatrice knows to be a 
vile slander! Benedick adopts her conviction, and, having 
adopted it, the course she urges is the one he must him- 
self have taken. Could he leave it to the only male 
members of his adopted family, Leonato and Antonio, two 
elderly men, to champion the kinswoman of the lady of his 

The manner in which he bears himself in the scene where 
he challenges Count Claudio proves that, under the gaiety of 
his general demeanour, lies, just as in Beatrice, a high and 
earnest and generous spirit. In parting from her he had 
said, " As you hear of me, so think of me." Had she seen 
with what dignity and quiet courage he meets the gibes and 
sarcasms of Don Pedro and Claudio, her heart must have 
gone out towards him with its inmost warmth. How much 
it cost him to renounce their friendship is very delicately 
shown. He has heard, by the way, that Don John has fled 
from Messina, — an incident calculated to strengthen his sus- 
picions that it was he who had hatched the plot against Hero. 
But however this may be, they are not without reproach ; so, 
turning to Don Pedro, he says : — 

4o8 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

" My lord, for your many court^siM I tlumk you. I must discoiititiiie 
your company. Your brother, the tmfltord, ie fled from MesaiDa. Ton 
have, among yon, Icilled a sweet and innocent lady. For my Lord 
Lackbeard there, he and I ehall meet; and, till then, peace be with 

Knowing that Beatrice will be all ImpatieQce to leam what 
hua passed between himself and Claudio, Benedick hastens to 
seek her. He longs to be again with her, for be ia by this 
time " horribly in love," as he said he would be. Not 
Leander, be tells us, nor Troilus, nor "a whole bookfol of 
these quondam carpet-mongers, whose names yet run smoothly 
in the even road of a blank verse, were ever so truly turned 
over and over as my poor self in love." When Beatrice heara 
from Margaret that he desires speech of her, how readily 
does she answer to the summons I Once fairly satisfied 
that Claudio has imdergone Benedick's challenge, her heart 
is lightened, and she can afibrd to resume some of her 
natural gaiety, and let herself be wooed. Then follows the 
charming dialogue in which the problem how they came to 
fall in love with each other is discussed. How much there 
is here for the actress to express ! What pretty sarcasms 
and humorous sadness ! — quite impossible to explain in 

" Bene. And, I pray thee now, tell me for which of my bad parte didet 
thou first fall ia love with me T 

Beat. For them all together ; which maintained bo politic a state of 
evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them. 
But for which of my good parts did you iirat suffer love for me 1 

Btne. 'Suffer love?' A good epithet I I do suffer love, indeed, for 
I love thee t^ainst my will. 

BeaL In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart ! If you spite 
it for my sake, I will spite it for yours ; for I will never love that which 
my friend hates. . . . 

Beatrice. 409 

BtfM, And now tell me, how doth your cousin ? 
BtaX. VeryilL 
BtM, And how do you ? 
BtaX, Very ill too. 

BtfTM. Serve Heaven, love me, and mend! There will I leave you 
too, for here comes one in haste.'* 

This is Ursula with the tidings that the plot against Hero 
has been unmasked, '' the Prince and Claudio mightily abused, 
and Don John, the author of all, fled and gone." " Will you 
go hear this news, signor?" says Beatrice. His rejoinder 
shows him all the happy lover. "I will live in thy heart, 
die in thy lap, and be buried in thine eyes ; and, moreover, 
I will go with thee to thy uncle's." How quaintly comes 
in the "moreover" here! 

When we see them again, they are with Leonato, Hero, and 
the others, who are met to receive Don Pedro and Claudio, 
and to seal the reconciliation which has been arranged by 
the marriage of Claudio with the lady whom he believes 
to be Hero's cousin« Marriage being in the air. Benedick 
has decided that the good friar shall have double duty to 
perform on the occasion. Leonato's consent to his wedding 
Beatrice is granted freely; and in giving it he bewilders 
Benedick by obscure references to the plot for bringing the 
two together. Before an explanation can be given, the Prince 
and Claudio arrive. Although well pleased that he is no 
longer required to call his old friend to account, Benedick 
takes care to show, by his coldness and reserve, that he con- 
siders their behaviour to have been unjustifiable, even had 
the story been true which Don John had b^uiled them 
into believing. When the Prince rallies him about his " Feb- 
ruary face," he makes no rejoinder. But when Claudio, with 

4IO Shakespeare* s Female Characters : 

infinite bad taste, at a moment when his mind shonld have 
been full of the gravest tbooghts, attacks him in the aame 
spirit, Benedick turns upon him with caustic severity. The 
entrance of Hero, with her ladies masked, arrests what might 
have grown into hot words. Hero is given to Clandio, and 
accepts him with a ready forgiveness, which, I feel very sure, 
Beatrice's self-respect, under similar circumstances, would 
not have permitted her to grant. Such treatment as Claudio's 
would have chilled all love within her. She would never 
have trusted as her husband the man who had allowed him- 
self to be so easily deceived, and who had openly shamed her 
before the world. Hero, altogether a feebler nature, neither 
looks so far into the future, nor feels so intensely what has 
happened in the past. But, to my thinking, her prospects of 
lasting happiness with the credulous and vacillating Clandio 
are somewhat doubtful. 

I have no misgivings about the future happiness of Bene- 
dick and Beatrice, even although they learn how they have 
been misled into thinking that each was dying for the other, 
and up to the moment of going to the altar keep up their 
witty struggles to turn the tables on each other. How 
dehghtful is the last glimpse we get of them ! Beatrice, 
to tease Benedick, has been holding back among the other 
ladies, when he expects that she would be ready to go with 
him to the altar ; and when at last, fairly puzzled, he asks, 
"Which is Beatrice?" and she unmasks, with the words, 
" What is your will % " he inquires, with an air of sor- 
prise, " Do not you love me ? " What follows gives us once 
more the bright, joyous, brilliant Beatrice of the early 

Beatrice. 411 

" Bwi, Why, no ! No more than reason. 

BeM, Why, then, your uncle, the Prince, and Claudio, have been 
deceived ; they swore you did. 

BtaX. Do not you love me ? 

BenA, Troth, no ! No more than reason. 

Beai, Why, then, my cousin, Margaret, and Ursula, are much deceived ; 
for they did swear you did. 

Befu, They swore that you were almost sick for me. 

heai. They swore that you were well-nigh dead for me. 

BtiM. Tis no such matter : — Then you do not love me ? 

Btai, No, truly, but in friendly recompense." 

And they break away from each other, as if all were over 
between them. But when their love-sonnets each to the 
other are produced by Claudio and Hero, there can be but 
one end. Still, however, the war of wit goes on: — 

^' Bum, a miracle ! here's our own hands against our hearts ! Come, 
I will have thee ; but, by this light, I take thee for pity ! 

BtaX, I would not deny you ; — but, by this good day, I yield upon 
great persuasion ; and, partly to save your life, for I was told you were 
in a consumption. '' 

Beatrice has, as usual, the best of it in this encounter, but 
Benedick is too happj to care for such defeat He knows 
he has won her heart, and that it is a heart of gold. He can 
therefore well afford to smile at the epigrams of '^ a collie 
of wit-crackers," and the quotation against himself of his 
former smart sayings about lovers and married men. His 
home will, I doubt not, be a happj one — all the happier 
because Beatrice and he have each a strong individuality, 
with fine spirits and busy brains, which will keep life from 
stagnating. They will always be finding out something new 
and interesting in each other's character. As for Beatrice, 
at least, one feels sure that Benedick will have a great deal 

41 3 Shakespearis Female Characters : 


to discover and to admire in her when he knows her better. 
She will prove the fitness of her name as Beatrice (the giver 
of happinessX and be will be glad to confess himself blest 
indeed (Benedictus), in having won her. 

One might go on writing of this delighttol play for ever. 
But it is not for me to go further into its merits. Such 
criticism has, I dare say, been often written by abler hands. 
I have but to do with Beatrice, and I can only hope that 
in impersonating her I have given one-half the pleasure 
to my audience that I have had in t«kii^ upon me her 
nature for Uie time. Such representations were to me a pure 
holiday. However tired I might be when the play began, the 
pervading joyousness of her character soon took hold of me, 
and bore me delightedly on. The change to this bright, 
high-spirited, gallant • hearted lady from the more boqI- 
absorbing and pathetic heroines which on moat occasionB 
I had to represent, was welcome to my often wearied spirits 
as a breeze from the sea. 

I have told you of my first performance of Beatrice. Before 
I conclude, let me say a word as to my last. It was at Strat- 
ford-upon-Avon, on the opening, on 23d of April 1879 (Shake- 
speare's birthday), of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. I 
had watched with much interest the completion of this most 
appropriate tribute to the memory of our supreme poet. The 
local enthusiasm, which would not rest until it had placed 
upon the banks of his native stream a building in which his 
best plays might be from time to time presented, commanded 
my warm sympathy. It is a beautiful biiilding ; and when, 
standing beside it, I looked upon the church wherein all that 
was mortal of the poet is laid, and, on the other hand, my eyes 

Beatrice. 413 

rested on the site of New Place, where he died, a feeling more 
earnest, more reverential, came over me than I have ever ex- 
perienced even in Westminster Abbey, in Santa Croce, or in any 
other resting-place of the mighty dead. It was a deep delight 
to me to be the first to interpret on that spot one of my great 
master's brightest creations. Everything conspired to make 
the occasion happy. From every side of Shakespeare's county, 
from London, from remote provinces, came people to witness 
that performance. The characters were all well supported, 
and the fact that we were acting in Shakespeare's birthplace, 
and to inaugurate his memorial theatre, seemed to inspire us 
alL I found my own delight doubled by the sensitive sym- 
pathy of my audience. Every turn of playful humour, every 
flash of wit, every burst of strong feeling told ; and it is a 
great pleasure to me to think, that on that spot and on that 
occasion I made my last essay to present a living portraiture 
of the Lady Beatrice. 

The success of this performance was aided by the very 
judicious care which had been bestowed upon all the acces- 
sories of the scene. The stage, being of moderate size, admit- 
ted of no elaborate display. But the scenes were appropriate 
and well painted, the dresses were well chosen, and the gen- 
eral effect was harmonious — satisfying the eye, without dis- 
tracting the spectator's mind from the dialogue and the play 
of character. It was thus possible for the actors to engage 
the close attention of the audience, and to keep it. This 
consideration seems to me now to be too frequently over- 

The moment the bounds of what is sufficient for scenic 
illustration are overleaped, a serious wrong is, in my opinion, 



414 Skake^aris Female Characters: 

dcme to the actor, and, as a necessary consequence, to the 
spectator also. With all good plajs tiiis most, in some 
measure, be the case; but where Shakespeare is concerned, 
it is so in a far greater d^ree. How can actor or actress 
hope to gain that hold apon the attention of an aadienoe by 
which it shall be led to watch, step by step, from the first 
scene to the last, the development of a complex yet hannoni- 
oua character, or the links of a finely adjusted plot, if the eye 
and ear are being overfed with gorgeous scenery, with dresaes 
extravagant in cost, and not unfrequently quaint even to 
groteaqueness in style, or by the bustle and din of crowds of 
people, whose movements unsettle the mind and disturb that 
mood of coutiniioua observation of dialogue and expression, 
without which the poet's purpose can neither be developed l^ 
the performer nor appreciated by his audience T 

For myself, I can truly say I would rather the mtM-«)t- 
«^M should fall short of being sufficient, than that it should 
be overloaded. However great the strain — and I have too 
often felt it— of so engaging the minds of my audience, as 
to make them forget the poverty of the scenic illustration, 
I would rather at all times have encountered it, than have 
had to contend against the influences which withdraw the 
spectator's mind from the essentials of a great drama to dwell 
upon its mere adjuncts. When Juliet is on the balcony, 
it is on her the eye should be riveted. It should not be 
wandering away to the moonlight, or to the pom^ranate- 
trees of Capulet's garden, however skilfully simulated by 
the scene-painter's and the machinist's skill. The actress 
who is worthy to interpret that scene requires the undivided 
attention of her audience. I cite this as merely one of a 

Beatrice. ^ 415 

host of illustrations that have occurred to my mind in seeing 
the lavish waste of merely material accessories upon the 
stage in recent years. How often have I wished that some 
poetic spirit had been charged with the tcusk of fitting the 
framework to the picture, which would have kept the 
resources of the painter's and costumier's art subordinate 
to the poet's design, and have furnished a harmonious and 
complete yet unobtrusive background for the play of char- 
acter, emotion, passion, humour, and imagination, which it 
was his object to set before us! 

Of course there are plays where very much must depend 
upon the setting in which they are placed. Who that saw 
it, for example, can ever forget Stanfield's scene in Ada 
and Galatea, when produced by Mr Macready? The eye 
never wearied of resting upon it, nor the ear of listening to 
the rippling murmur of the waves as they gently rushed 
up and broke upon the shore of that sun-illumined sea. 
Such a background enriched the charm of even Handel's 
music, and blended delightfully with the movements of the 
nymphs and shepherds by whom the business of the scene 
was carried on. 

Nor, as I have been told, was his revival of the Camus less 
admirable. Tou may have seen it, dear Mr Buskin; and, 
if you have, you can judge of its merits far better than I. 
For as I acted '' the Lady," I can, of course, speak only of 
the scenes in which she took part These impressed me 
powerfully, and helped my imagination as I acted. The 
enchanted wood was admirably presented, with its dense, 
bewildering maze of trees, so easy to be lost in, so difficult 
to escape from, with the fitful moonlight casting deep shadows. 


416 Shakespeare's Female Characters : 

and causing terrors to the lonely, bewildered girl, whose high 
taist and confidence in Supreme help alone keep her apirita 
from sinking under the wild " fantasies " that throng into 
her memory, " of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire." 
It seemed to me the veiy place the poet must have pictured 
to >n'maft1f. Not less so appeared to me the Hall of Comus 
— BO far as I could see it from the enchanted chair, in which 
the Lady sits spell-bound. It was a kind of Aladdin's garden, 
all aglow wiUi light and colour. And then the rabble-rout, 
BO gay, 80 variously clad, some like Hebes, some like hags ; 
figures moving to and fro, some beautiful as Adonis, others 
like Fauns and bearded SatTis. Add to this the weird 
fascination of the music, the rich melody, the rampant joy- 
onsness, the tipsy jollity I All served to quicken in me 
the feeling with which the poet has inspired the lonely 
"Lady," when she sees herself, without means of escape, 
surrounded by a rabble -rout full of wine and riot, and 
abandoned to shameless revelry, I lost myself in the reality 
of the situation, and found the poet's words flow from me 
as though they had sprung from my own heart. The bland- 
ishments of Comus's rhetoric, enforced with all Uie fervonr 
and persuasiveness of delivery of which Mr Macready was 
master, seemed as it were to give the indignant impulse 
needed to make the lady break her silence : — 

" I had not thought to have unlocked my lips 
In this unhallowed air, but that this juggler 
Would think to charm my judgment, aa inine eyes, 
Obtruding false rules pranked in reason's garb. 

To him that dares 
Arm hia profane tongue with contemptuous words 
Against the sun-clad Power of chastity, 

Beatrice. 417 

Fain would I something say ; yet to what end ? 
• •••■•• 

Enjoy your dear wit, and gay rhetoric, 
That hath so well been taught her dazzling fence : 
Thou art not fit to hear thyself convinced ; 
Yet, should I try, the uncontrollM worth 
Of this pure cause would kindle my rapt spirits 
To such a flame of sacred vehemence, 
That dumb things should be moved to sympathise. 
And the brute earth would lend her nerves, and shake, 
Till all thy magic structures, reared so high, 
Were shattered into heaps o'er thy false head ! " 

I could never speak these lines without a thrill that seemed 
to dilate my whole frame, and to give an unwonted fulness 
and vibration to the tones of my voice. Given, as they were, 
with intense earnestness, they no doubt impressed the actors 
of the rabble-rout, and made them feel with Comus, when 
he says — 

** She fables not ; I feel that I do fear 
Her words set off by some superior power." 

It was somewhat difficult for me to speak the lines, with 
my whole frame thrilling, yet unable to move a muscle, 
for the lady is bound by a spell that paralyses all her limbs. 
It was a good experience for me, for at that time I was 
rather given to redundancy of action. One of the most dif- 
ficult things to acquire in the technical part of the actor's 
art is repose of manner, — to be able, in fact, to stand still, 
and yet be undergoing and expressing the strongest mental 
emotion. What the effect may have been upon the audience 
I do not know ; but those near my chair upon the stage told 
me, the night after the first representation, that they were 
struck with awe; that my whole appearance seemed to 


4 1 8 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

become so completely transfigoied under the influence of 
my emotion, that they would not have been amazed if the 
chair with the Lady in it had been swept upwards out of 
sight to some holier sphere. 

Here was a case in which the poet's purpose was aided by 
the skilful use of scenic acyimcts, without which the per- 
former could not hope to produce the desired impression on the 
minds of the spectators. I can easily imagine other situations 
where they are of the greatest value. Indeed I can vividly 
recall, as the very perfection of scenic illustration, Henry V. 
and King John, as they were produced by Mr Macready at 
Drury Lane. In these revivals, as they were called, the 
predominating mind of a man who knew the due proportion 
to be preserved in such matters, so as not to drown but to 
heighten the dramatic interest, was conspicuously apparent. 
In plays of this class, moreover, fulness of scenic illustration 
is appropriate, and in skilful hands it is never allowed to 
place the actors at a disadvantage. But, as a rule, it seems 
to me that in dramas of ** high action and high passion," such 
things ought to be sparingly applied. The aim should be, 
while keeping scenic accessories in stem subordination, to 
economise neither pains nor money in getting every character 
acted with all the finish that trained ability and conscientious 
care can give. 

Foremost of all, care should be taken that the actors of all 
grades have been educated to speak blank verse correctly, — 
to know the laws of its construction, — and while giving the 
meaning, to give the music of it also. It is sad to see the 
reckless ignorance on all these points which now prevails, 
and to note to what a level of feebleness and commonplace 

Beatrice. 419 

the representation of Shakespeare has, — with some notable 
exceptions, — been reduced by that nerveless and colourless 
thing, mistakenly called ''natural acting.'' Thus it is that 
Shakespeare's plays are continually reproduced with their 
very essence left out, unheeded by the actors, and, alas! 
to all appearance, as little missed by the audience. Of what 
account is elaborate scenery, or dresses that will satisfy the 
most fastidious archseologist, if those who wear the one or 
move about in the other are untrue to the characters they 
profess to represent, and dead to the significance and the 
beauty of the language they have to speak ? 

There is much talk in these days about realism, and keep- 
ing up scenic illusion. But how inconsistent with this talk is 
the practice, once happily confined to the Continent and the 
Opera-house, of calling on the performers at the end of an 
act or a scene, — or, as sometimes happens, of the performers 
obtruding themselves, when there is nothing that deserves the 
name of a call — ^to bow and curtsey to the audience ! Surely, 
just in proportion as the acting has been of a quality to excite 
genuine enthusiasm, is it unmeet that the effect produced 
should be disturbed by the actor's personality being inter- 
posed between one scene and another. How offensive to right 
feeling, as well as to every rule of art, is it, for example, 
to see Claude Melnotte lead on Pauline, when the curtain 
has just descended on their separation, she in despair and 
fainting in her parents' arms, he rushing away to *^ redeem 
his honour " as a soldier, with the prospect that there " shall 
not be a forlorn-hope without him : " or, more intolerable stiU, 
where Juliet has taken the potion, been mourned over by her 
kindred as dead, and Bomeo is, as we think, far away in Mantua, 

420 Shakespeare s Female Characters : 

to see her advance hand in hand with him at the end of the 
act in answer to the summons of the imthinking few ! Who 
can care what becomes of them after ? The spell is broken, 
the interest destroyed. 

For myself, I can traly say that I never cared for myself, 
after having been forced to yield to a call during the progress 
of the play. On the occasions when the long-continued and 
not-to-be-silenced clamour of the audience left me no choice, 
and I have gone before them (I fear very ungraciously), I 
have never been the same afterwards, — ^never able to lose my- 
self in full measure in the illusion of the story, — ^never again 
for that night the same Pauline, Sosalind, or whatever else 
I was acting, that I was before this interruption. It was 
ever my desire to foiget my audience. Little did they, who 
only meant kindness, know how much they took from my 
power of working out my conceptions when they forced me in 
this way out of my dream-world. 

When the play is over, when the picture is, as it were, 
complete, and the character assumed has been laid down, 
there is something to be said in favour of a recall ; for, when 
genuine and general, it may be a natural expression of the 
sympathy — and, may I say, gratitude? — of the audienca 
Such calls as this, in the days not very remote, when they 
sprang only from an irresistible feeling in the whole audience, 
were a distinction. Now, from being far too common and too 
indiscriminately given, they have lost this character. Having 
lost it, any inspiriting influence which they may once have 
had upon the actor has necessarily passed away, and he can 
only look upon being simmioned to appear before the curtain 
as a very irksome concession to a meaningless custom, which, 

Beatrice. 421 

if he could, he would be glad to avoid. It lies with actors 
themselves, and with the public, to efifect the necessary reform. 
But let us not hear of the importance of scenic illusion while 
the present system — for to a system it seems to have been 
reduced — ^is tolerated and continued. 

The interest I know you, dear Mr Kusldn, feel in these 
questions must be my excuse for touching upon them here. 
May I hope that my views in regard to them, as well as my 
estimate of the character of Beatrice, are in harmony with 
yours ; and that you will not think I have kept you too long 
" listening with all your heart " to what I have had to say ? 

Believe me always, with sincere esteem, most truly yours, 

31 Onblow Square, 6M January 1885. 
To John Ruskin, Esq. 

[It has pleased me greatly to read, in a letter [27th 
February 1885] to Sir Theodore Martin from M. Bonier, 
formerly the well-known and distinguished member of the 
Com^die Frangaise, a warm approval of my remarks in the 
preceding paragraphs upon certain characteristics of the con- 
temporary stage : — 

" Quant aux critiques," he writes, " que Lady Martin fait de 
ces orgies de mise en sc^ne, qui dtouflfent la pens^ du poite 
sous le pr^texte de la mieux mettre en lumi^re ; quant k ces 
rappels idiots des acteurs pendant le cours d'une repr^nta- 
tion, quant k toutes ces extravagances engendr^ par la vanity 

422 Shakespeare's Female Characters. 

des acteurs ou la cupidity des directeurs, je les appronve 
toutes, et je dis comme un des m^ecms de M. de Pour- 
ceaugnac : ' Manibus et pedibus descendo in tuam sententiam.' 
Ce Latin de cuisine me fait souvenir qu'un temps on Ton 
jouait h, Bome Plaute, Terence, et les grands tragiques, Horace, 
que vons connaissez si bien, a dit quelque part ; que les plus 
beaux vers du monde sent mis en d^route par im passage de 
chevaux et d'ours traversant la sc^e. C'est ce qui se fait 
encore aujourd'hui"] 




i: comparative iioii-«nccess of this fine play was 
[irobably quite as much due to Hr Macready not 
jilaying the part of Lord Tresham as to the 
I'lrcumstances mentioned in the text. He had 
originally promised Mr Browning that he would 
undertake it, but bad afterwards given the part to 
Mt Phelps to study and reheaise. The drama was broaght out in a 
great hurry, and after insufficient rehearsals. At nearly the eleventh 
hoar Mr Macready proposed to assume the part of Tresham him- 
self ; hut to this change Mr Browning demurred as not being fair 
to Mr Phelps. Accordingly Mr Phelps was left to play it, — a seri- 
ous misfortune, for he was not fitted for such a character, whereas 
it was one in which Mr Macready was sure to have excelled. Aa 
it was, the play, though well received, was only performed three 
times. Had it been strengthened by Mr Macready's personal aid, 
the r«eult would most probably have been difTerent. The incident 
caused, I believe, a serious estrangement, as Mr Browning con- 
sidered he had not been frankly dealt with by Mr Macready. 

426 Appendix. 

I played Mildred TreBham, as I had f onneily played Loqr Peicy, 
Countess of Carlisle, in Mr Browning's Stragdrd. With his 
wonted generosity Mr Browning spoke of what I had done for 
his heroines in the following lines, written in my album soon 
after the production of The Blot on the Scuieheon, On the oppo- 
site page were some Terses, in which flowers played a prominent 
part This drcumstanoe, and the particulars above given will 
explain allusions in the lines, which might otherwise be obscure. 

** There's a sisterhood in words — 
Still along with 'flowers' go 'birds.' 
Is it but three weeks to-day 
Since they played a luckless play, 
And ' the Treshams,' like a band 
Of full'fledged nestlings, left my hand 
To flutter forth, the wide world over? 
Just three weeks ! yet see— each rover 
Here, with more or less unsteady 
Winglets, nearly reached already 
In the Past^ so dim, so dim, 
A place where Lucy, Strafford, Pym, 
My elder brood of early years, 
Wait peacefully their new compeers. 
Then, good voyage ! shall it grieve me 
Vastly, that such ingrates leave me f 
Why, this March, this very morning 
Hatched my latest brood, take warning, 
Each one worth you put together ! 
April sees them full in feather — 
^Vnd how we'll welcome May's glad weather ! 

Helen Faucit, you have twice 
Proved my Bird of Paradise ! 
He, who would my wits inveigle 
Into boasting him my eagle. 
Turns out very like a Eaven : 
Fly off, Blacky, to your haven ! 

Acting of A ntigone in Dublin. 42 7 

Bat ycu^ softeet dove, muBt neyer 

Leave me, as he doeSi for ever — 

I will strain mj eyes to bUndness, 

£re loee sight of yon and kindness. 

' Genins ' is a common story ! 

Few gaess that the spirit's glory 

They hail nightly — ^is the sweetest. 

Fairest, gentlest^ and completest 

Shakespeare's-Lady's, ever poet 

Longed for ! Few gness this : / know it" 

*' Hatcham, StaaiT, Maink 4, *4S." 

These lines were accompanied by the following letter : — 

*^ Mt dbab Miss Faucit, — Here is your album, with my best 
thanks for the honour yon have done me by asking some rhymes 
for it: and here are the rhymes themselves — poor enough, most 
probably, but sincere, quite as certainly. I wish from my soul 
it were in my power to find some worthier way of proving the 
admiration and gratitude with which I remain, my dear Miss 
Faudt, yours ever faithfully, 

'' Robert BnowNiNa/' 


I P088B98 a very delightful souvenir of my performances of Afdi- 
gone in Dublin. It is a gold fibula presented by the heads of the 
University, the leading men of science, physicians, lawyers, paint- 
ers, and literary men of that city ; and it was accompanied by the 
following Address, to which their signatures, thirty-five in number, 
were attached : — 

428 Appendix. 

" To Miss Hblen Faucit. 

''Madam, — We beg to give expression to the unalloyed and 
sustained satisfaction which we have derived from your late per- 
formances at our national theatre. 

" We have each and aU endeavoured to promote the cxdtivation 
of classic literature, and the study of ancient art in this our city ; 
and we feel that your noble representation of Antigone has greatly 
advanced these important objects, by creating a love and admira- 
tion of the beauty and grandeur of ancient Greece. 

** With the writings of the Grecian dramatists, it is true, we 
have long been familiar ; but their power and their beauty have 
come down to us through books alone. ' Mute and motionless ' 
that drama has heretofore stood before us ; you, Madam, have given 
it voice, gesture, life ; you have realised the genius, and embodied 
the inspirations, of the authors and of the artists of early Greece ; 
and have thus encouraged and instructed the youth of Ireland in 
the study of their immortal works. 

*' We offer the accompanying testimonial to the virtues and talents 
of one, whose tastes, education, and surpassing powers have justly 
placed her at the summit of her profession. 

" Gboroe Petrib, V.P.RLA., Chairman, 
John Anstkr, LL.D., M.RI.A., ) ^rrtd/t^' 
John Francis Waller, MRLA., ) 

" Dublin, 1845." 

The fibula, in itself an exquisite specimen of the goldsmith's art, 
was designed by Sir Frederic Burton, now the director of our Na- 
tional Gallery. Within an outer chaplet of olive-leaves, it presents 
the Cadmean serpent, which includes within its folds masks of 
Creon and Antigone, wrought in gold, and within the central coil, 
upon a white enamel ground, the figure of Antigone kneeling over 
a cinerary urn. Three large pear-shaped emeralds, skilfully dis- 
posed, relieve the chasing of the groundwork. The gold, I was 
told, was Irish ; the workmanship, like the design, Irish ; and 
nothing, I am sure, was wanting to satisfy the enthusiastic spirit of 

** Lady of Lyons.'' 429 

the donors, but that the emeralds should also have been native to 
the Emerald Isle. On the reverse side is the Theban shield, with 
the inscription — 






" THE LADY OF LYONS," p. 206. 

It would be difficult to overstate the enthusiasm, which this play 
excited, when once it came to be known. As in aU such cases, 
there was no lack of tributes from friends, unknown as well as 
known, to the actress, who had been the first to introduce the 
heroine to their notice. The only one of these which I seem 
to have preserved was from Mr Laman Blanchard, who, having 
borrowed my album from a friend, sent it back with the 
addition of the following lines: — 

(The Lady of Lyons.) 


What need I, oh Helen, comparisons draw 

'Twixt thee and the belles of Circassia and Cadiz 1 

Since first the sweet Lady of Lyons I saw, 

I swear I have deemed thee the Lion of Ladies. 

Start not ! I would give thee no terrible shape — 

A lion — dove- voiced — like the poet's, I mean ; 
Though such are my chains, I might sooner escape 
From the leonine paw, than from you as Pauline. 

f » 





430 Appendix. 

'i Oh Lady of Lyons — ^what lions of his, 

Van Amburgh's, could move ns like thee to applaud t 

\ While he is avoiding a scratch on the phiz, 

We, seeing you, wish — yee, we wish to be Claude. 

Yes, lady, the pride and the rapture of Claude, 

Though at first his love-garden was wofully weedy. 

In winning by faith what he'd captured by fraud, 
Oh, it does make one long to be Mr Macready ! 



Whilst hearing from your lips the truths he has written, 
Whilst watching the thoughts your deep eyes are revealing, 

I'm sure there must often steal over Sir Lytton 
A pleasant Pygmalionish sort of a feeling. 

Oh Helen of Lyons ! Not she of old Troy, 

The Helen of Paris, is Helen to me. 
Nor Helen the brave-minded rib of Rob Roy, 

Nor Helen — Miss Edgeworth's — the best of the three ! 

Nor Shakespeare's fond Helen, who felt 'twas affliction 
To love, and not wed, some ' particular star ' ; 

Though stars they may be, shining sweetly, — in fiction, — 
You glisten — in fact — more enchantingly far ! " 

"Laman Blanchard. 


On another page of my album, not long afterwards, the author 
of The Lady of Lyons inscribed to me the following lines : — 

*' Thou canst not slight the wreath I lay before thee. 
Since thou hast given wreaths, not mine, to me ; — 
Sweet Violet,^ passionate Juliet, bright Pauline, 
Lending a Helen's shape to words of air, 
As Faustus called from air the shape of Helen : — 
So ever thus art has exchange with art, 

^ The heroine of Lord Lytton's play of The Sea Captain. 

Lady Macbeth. 43 1 

Each still by each inBpirmg and ioBpiied ; 
As thou hast given thine own fair form and voice 
To many a dream by poet's heart conceived, 
So from that form and voice may poets yet 
Take dreams for future Helens to embody." 

"E. L. B." 

LADY MACBETH, p. 291. 

Makt friends have made requests to me to write of Lady Macbeth 
in a separate letter, treating her character with the same fulness 
of analysis and exposition which I have bestowed on the other 
heroines of Shakespeare included in this volume. It has reached 
me in many ways, that the view I presented of Lady Macbeth in 
my impersonation of her has been welcomed by Shakespearian 
scholars of eminence, not only here but on the Continent, as hav- 
ing a special value in bringing back people's minds to a careful 
study of the character, and removing the mistaken impressions of 
it which had been produced by the genius of great actresses of a 
former period. Were I to yield to the wishes thus expressed, I 
could do little more than expand the brief suggestions which I have 
made in the text. From what is there said, it will be seen, that 
such a critical examination of the play as would be required, in 
order to explain fully my conception of Lady Macbeth, would be a 
task of great labour, because it would not be prompted by the love 
for my subject which has made the writing about my favourite 
heroines comparatively easy. I am content to be judged by the 
recorded impressions produced by Lady Macbeth, as I acted her, 
upon the minds of men of high authority. The character I 
intended to portray has been so well described in a letter of the 
late William Carleton, the author of TaHu of the Irish PeoBontry, 
in a letter to my much valued friend, the late Dr William Stokes 
of Dublin, that I trust I may be foigiven, if, notwithstanding the 

432 Appendix. 

too wann eulogiiiin upon mjaelf, I quote it in foither explanation 
of what I haire aaid of Lady Macbeth in the text 

** 2 Cbbcot, Clqbtabf, Ncrember 27, 1846. 

" My dear Doctob, — ^When I saw yon yesterday, I inadvert- 
ently propoted a task to myself daring our conversation about 
Miss Fandty which I now feel to be one of great difficulty, and, 
I may add, of hnmiliatioiL In accordance with my promise to you, 
I went last ni^t and witnessed for the first time her perform- 
ance of Lady Macbeth. I went, certainly, without any prejudices 
existing against her powers as an accomplished representative of 
tiiose brilliant creations of female heroism and tenderness which 
have emanated from the imaginations of our great dramatists, but, 
in this particular instance, with a very different theory upon the 
subject of that histrionic impersonation which I have hitherto 
conceived best calculated to portray those elements which con- 
stitute the character of Lady Macbeth. Tou, from our conversa- 
tion of yesterday, understand what I mean. In plain terms, I 
thought Miss Faucit's reading of Lady Macbeth's character, as 
detailed by you, and as I had heard before, at variance with the 
terrible inhumanities which are bodied forth in it. . . . 

'* Be this as it may, I promised to give you a true account of 
the impression which her delineation of the character might make 
upon me, and I proceed now to keep my word as well as I can, 
premising that I fear I may still be too much under the influence 
of the impressions she produced, to take what I say as the result 
of cool and purely judicial opinion. It is not an easy thing to 
call in philosophy to our aid when we are glowing with the emo- 
tions of enthusiasm and natural partiality, which the genius of 
such a woman is certain to excite. Philosophy is a very good old 
fellow in his way, but I have always found that whenever I stood 
most in need of his guardianship and aid, — whenever my feelings 
or my heart were likely to run away with my judgment, the faith- 
less old villain has uniformly neglected his post and abandoned 
me. But seriously, whether Miss Faucit's conc-eption of the 
character be right or wrong, she has, so far as I am concerned, 
most signally triumphed by the impression which I carried home 

Lady Macbeth. 433 

from her impersonation of it. I know it has been said that the 
heart does not reason ; but although this may be true in a general 
sense, I am conscious that there is in the operation or exercise of 
our feelings some nameless principle of truth which instinctiyely 
teaches us what is right, and upon which it is a thousand times 
safer to rely than upon the cooler codes of conventional opinion, 
by which we are too often imwittingly influenced. After all, this 
is no more than nature simply recognising herself in the human 
heart through the medium of her own sympathies. 

*^ The first thing that began gradually to creep upon me last night 
was an unaccoimtable yet irresistible sense of propriety in Miss 
Faudt's management of the character. This argued, you will tell 
me, neither more nor less than the force of truth. Perhaps it is 
so ; but, be it what it may, it soon gained upon me so powerfully, 
that I began to feel as if I had never seen Lady Macbeth's true 
character before. I said to myself : this woman, it seems to me^ 
is simply urging her husband forward through her love for him, 
which prompts her to wish for the gratification of his ambition, to 
commit a murder. This, it would appear, is her sole object, and 
in working it out, she is naturally pursuing a terrible course^ 
and one of singular difficulty. She perceives that he has scruples ; 
and it is necessary that she should work upon him so far as that 
he should commit the crime, but at the same time prevent him 
from feeling revolted at the contemplation of it ; and this she 
effects by a sanguinary sophistry that altogether hardens his heart 
But this closes her lessons of cruelty to him. In such a case it is 
not necessary that she should label herself as a murderess, and 
wantonly parade that inhuman ferocity by which she has hitherto 
been distinguished. Her office of temptress ceases with the 
murder, and the gratification of what she had considered her hus- 
band's ambition. This, as I felt it, is the distinction which Miss 
Faucit draws, — ^the great discovery she has made. It imquestion- 
ably adds new elements to the character, and not only rescues it 
from the terrible and revolting monotony in which it has heretofore 
appeared, but keeps it within the category of humanity, and gives 
a beautiful and significant moral to the closing scenes of the 
queen's life. 


434 Appendix. 

** Indeed the character from this forward is represented by Miss 
Faucit with wonderful discrimination and trath. I felt this 
strongly, for I had never before observed the harmony between 
her acting and the language of Shakespeare. In this, however, 
I have only laboured, with the public, under the disadvantage of 
being misled by the authority of Mrs Siddons as to the true 
estimate of Lady Macbeth's character; and I do not know a 
greater triumph than that achieved by the fair and great reformer 
of bringing us back to Shakespeare and to trutL 

" In another point of view, it appears to me that Miss Faucit 
stands alone, proving that she possesses the grand and original 
simplicity which belongs to true genius. She has dared to cast 
aside aU the antiquated forms of the stage— aU those traditionary 
appendages to character, which in acting were common property, 
and are still too much so. It is evident that all her motions on 
the stage result, naturally and without effort, from such a full 
and glowing conception of the character as occasions, without any 
such traditionary memories, the spontaneous and appropriate action 
only. It naturally follows, therefore, that she never moves or 
looks upon the stage without conveying some truth or sentiment^ 
or expressing some passion. 

''This faculty is almost peculiar to herself. For instance, in 
following her husband after the supper scene : simple and without 
significance as this act has been in others, she exhibited in it an 
astonishing manifestation of genius, for in that act aU might read 
the awful agonies that were at work in her heart. Her conduct 
in this scene was different from anything I have witnessed before. 
In others there was displayed the predominant passion or passions, 
now without a motive — namely, a hardened and bloodthirsty 
ferocity, mingled with a wish to conceal her husband's crime. In 
Miss Faucit's acting, there was visible the latter motive, which 
was indeed natural, together with the ill-suppressed anguish of 
a gentle spirit, and a perceptible struggle to subdue the manifes- 
tations of that guilty whilst attempting to encourage and sustain 
her husband. All this I felt again to be the triumph of Shake- 
speare and of truth, and, let me add, of Helen Faucit. 

"In the sleep-walking scene she crowned the performance of 

Note to Letter on Rosalind. 435 

the night. To witness it is worth a thousand homilies against 
murder. There is in it such a frightful reality of horror — such 
terrible revelations of remorse — such struggles to wash away, not 
the blood from the hand, but the blood from the soul, as made 
me shudder from head to foot, and the very hair to stand upon 
my head. How the deadly agonies of crime were portrayed by 
the parched mouth, that told of the burning tortures within ! And 
when you looked on those eyes, or those corpse-like hands, now 
telling their unconscious tale of crime, and thought of their 
previous energy in urging on its perpetration, you could not help 
looking fearfully for a moment into your own heart, and thanking 
God you were free from the remorse of murder. This scene is, 
indeed, beyond criticism — it is above it." 


I AM happy to learn from my valued friend, M. Regnior, that 
I was right in thinking the Parisian actors had neither the 
desire nor the power to stop the English performances at the 
Salle Ventadour. He writes (15th October 1884) to Sir Theodore 
Martin — '' Je ne veux pas laisser un doute dans Tesprit de Lady 
Martin sur ce fait, que les acteurs Parisiens auraient en 1845 fait 
appel aux autorit^ 'to prevent the prolongation of the English 
performances.' Le fait est impossible. Les autorit^ auraient 
envoy^ promener les acteurs malavises qui auraient fait une telle 
demande ; les autorit^ n'avaient aucun droit pour y satisfaire, et 
touB les Com^diens Fran9aiB dont je faisais partie alors, suivaient 
avec trop de curiosity les reprdsentations Anglaises pour d&irer 
qu'on les discontinu&t." 

May I be forgiven, if I quote with natural pride the opinion 
of one whose words carry so much weight, from a letter of M. 
Regniei^s to the same correspondent about my performances in 
Paris: — 

436 Appendix. 

^Je n'ai jamais reyu on lelu OtJuUo oa Hamlet sans me 
rappeler ce que Lady Martin Hii dons Desdemona et dans Ophelia; 
et totgoors j'ai conserve dans mon esprit, comme nn de mes pins 
frappants souyeniis diamatiquesy la lepi^sentation oil, ponr la pre- 
miere fois (k Paris da moins), elle jona le idle de Lady Macbeth. 
Elle stlt y montier ime antorit^, nne maturity de talent, qui ca* 
diait pen avec ses jennes ann^es, et je fas henienz alois, comme 11 
me semble qa'elle en dtlt 6tie flatty, de Ini Yoir recaeillir dee 
doges si jastes et si ^datants, tant de la part da pablic qai sent^ 
qae de la part da pablic qai jage." ^ 

The warmth with which the Paris public received me, and to 
which allusion has been made more than once in the text^ was 
the more gratifying, that I had come among them as a complete 
stranger, with no preliminary intimation of the position which I 
had held since my first appearance upon the English stage. Of 
the numerous criticisms which appeared in the journals at the 
time, none gave me greater satisfaction and encouragement than 
a paper by M. Edouard Thierry, brother of the celebrated his- 
torian, in the Meseager of 20th January 1845. That my estimate 
of its value was well grounded has been confirmed by M. Begnier 
in a recent letter (2d March 1885) : "Parmi les doges," he writes, 
" que la Presse Fran9ais a f aits de vous, vous devez faire un cas 
particulier de ceux de M. Ed. Thierry, qui est compt^ dans notre 
litt^mture comme un critique de premier ordre, d'un jugement 
tr^ sur, et d'un gotlt difficile; sa louange n'a jamais ^t^ banale^ 
et est d'un grand prix." 

As a specimen of what dramatic criticism in Paris used to be, 
and of the spirit and knowledge which made it precious to artists, 
as it was instructive to the public, the following extracts may not 
be uninteresting : — 

" Lorsque Ton annonga les repr^ntations des artistes Anglaia 

^ I learn to-day (29th April 1885), with great regret, the death of this fine 
artiat and accomplished and amiable gentleman. 




Parisian Dramatic Criticisms. 437 \ 


•or la 80^ au Th^tre Italien, nous ne connaissions ici que deux 

noma de la troupe nonyelle, celoi de Macready, celui de Bennett ; ^ 

ear on ae rappelait aussi ayoir vu M. Bennett duiant le premier 

dgonr qui fiient k Paria lea actenrs venus de Londrea. Quant k * 


^ An imintended compliment. It surprised a French critic to see an 

mainly to her natural complexion. The abuse of cosmetics on the French 
stage, which was then habitual, has since been carried, in many instanoes^ to 
an flTcw upon our own. When the skin is covered with what is in effect a 
ptinted mask, the colour, which under strong emotion would come and go, is 
liidden under it, and the natural expression of the countenance destroyed. 


Miaa Helen Faudt, le bruit de son talent n'ayait jamais ^t^ aaaea 

loin pour paaaer le d^troit, et lorsque la troupe d^buta par OtJidlo, 

dkB premieres so^ea de Touyrage, k yoir manoeuyrer Tentourage ^ 

da oeUbre oomMien, on penaa, c'^tait presque raison, qu il aerait 

aeul rintirdt et la curioeiti du nouyeau th^tre ; je n'ai paa beaoin > 

d'lgouter, apr^ Shakespeare. 

** Miaa Helen, en effet, n'a pas cea dehors, cea enaeignea, ai Ton 
▼eat» de I'actrioe, qui attirent dte I'abord les regards du apectateur, 
priparent sa bienyeillance, et quelque chose de plus qui sa bien- 
yeillance, lui font d&irer enfin de trouyer le talent oil 08 aiment la 
beauty Miss Helen, pour qui la yoit en passant, est une jeune 

femme de formes grUes, mais non pas d^licatea, grande, et k laquelle V 

manque la fleur de la chair.^ Cependant, aussit6t qu'elle marche, | 

anantdt qu'elle fait un geste, qu'elle prend une attitude, une grftce 

diarmante se rdyMe. Cette jeune femme, qui ne semblait pas ayoir p 

la aMuction n^cesaaire de Tactrice, a tout Tattrait mais I'attrait 
inrfaiatible de la femme. Elle est femme, en un mot ; sa gr&ce par* 
tieuli^ ne saurait s'expliquer par aucune autre expression ; et quand 
eOe parle, c'est encore la yoix qui conyient k cette gr&ce, c'est la 
douceur d'organe qui sied bien k cette hannonie de la d-marche et 
de toute la personne, c'est le son caressant qui accompagne k souhait 
cette careaae, pour ainsi parler, du regard et dea mani^rea d^ntee. 

^ Auaai, ayant la fin de la soiree, le public partageait di^k son 
attention entre Othello et Desdemona. D sayait qui Londres lui 
avait enyoy^ plus qu'un grand trag^en, qu'il ayait enyoy^ auaai 
one grande tragedienne. 

** Ce n'eat paa ]k xm succ^ de surprise. Eien n'ayait pu pr^yenir 

43^ Appendix. 

lea esprits. La petite Industrie de la reclame n'ayait pas r^pandu 
ii propos r^oge officieuz, aucune anecdote n'avait ^t^ invent^, pas 
la moindre historiette mise en circulation, pas le moindre commence- 
ment de biographie. L'affiche m^me, si fleurie en ^pith^tes et en 
am^nit^ oratoires, n'avait pas ajout^ au nom de Miss Helen Faudt 
la plus simple de ses insinuations, et la caraetkre avait ^t^ scrupu- 
leusement mesur^ de mani^re i ce que la seconde vedette n'afifect4t 
pas la pretention de rivaliser avec la premiere ; mais le talent verit- 
able n'a pas besoin de ces habilit^s d'^diteur ou de directeur de 
spectacle : inconnue avant la representation, Miss Faucit ne T^tait 
plus d&s le quatri^e acte. Aprte le cinqui&me, elle fiit rappel^e 
avec Macready. . . . Miss Faucit devenait comme une de nos 
actrices, comme une actrice Fran^aise. 

'^ n est vrai que son talent avait d^j^ pour nous quelque chose 
de moins Stranger et de plus ami II etait noveau, et pourtant 
nous lui trouvions je ne sais quelle ressemblance avec nos souvenirs. 
Cette gr^ si fine, si spirituelle et si naive, c'etait de la gr&ce Anglaise 
assurement, c'etait aussi de la gr^ Allemande. Mais oil avions nous 
vu cette gr&ce Allemande f Xous Tavions vue sur la sckie de 
rOpera, nous Tavions vue dans nos ballets, dans la Gipsy ^ dans le 
DiaUe Boiieux, dans la Tarentule; elle s'appelait alors Fanny 
Elsler, et qu'y-a-t-il d'^tonnant que nous ayons aim^ Miss Faucit, 
que nous Tayons reconnue, que le public Fran9ai8 Fait adoptee pour 
cette ressemblance 9 

" Ajoutez une voix comme celle de Mile. Mars, et une mani&re 
de reciter qui se rapproche surtout de notre mani&re. £n general, 
les artistes Anglais ont retenu Temphase de la trag^die, telle que 
la jouait Lafont, telle qu'on la d^damait k c6te de Talma. Mac- 
ready lui-m^me a conserve par momens ce debit pompeux, qu'il 
accentue d*ailleurs k la fa9on Anglaise en appuyant sur toutes les 
syllabes. Miss Helen Faucit parle simplement, naturellement ; la 
phrase coxde limpide de ses l&vres, et s'echappe d'une seule emission, 
comme dans notre recitation Fran^aise. . . . 

" Apr^s OtJieUo, sont venus successivement HanUetf Vtrffinius, 
Macbeth, Romeo et JtUiette, A chacun do ces drames, le succ^ de 
Miss Faucit s'est accru sans autres artifices. L'actrice jouait, et la 
public applaudissait." 

Parisian Dramatic Criticisms. 439 


" On n'avait imaging Ophelia ni plus touchante, ni plus giacieuse. 
Noire parterre Fran^ais est demeur^ surpris devant cette pantomime 
pleine de sens, pleine d'id^es, pleine de bont<^ pleine de tendresse, 
pleine de passion mSme, mais surtout pleine de mesure et pleine de 
modestie. Car c'est Ik une quality rare ; aussi je reviens sur cet 
floge ; il 7 a dans Miss Faucit, et ii un degr^ eminent, ce que 
j'appelle la modestie de I'artiste, ce d^int^ressement pr^ieuz par 
lequel I'artiste pr^fere Tart ii lui-m^me, et le succte du drame ii son 
propre succ^ Quel que soit le rdle, quelle que soit la sc^ne, Miss 
Faudt prend sa place dans la perspective du tableau, dans I'en- 
semble de Toeuvre, et cette place elle la garde jusqu'k la fin, sans 
ehercher ii sortir de la demi-teinte n^cessaire ; disparaissant m6me 
au besoin dans Tombre que le po^te a m^nag^." 


^ Dans Virginius le r61e de Viiginie n'est pour ainsi dire que 
le fond oblig^ du drame. Toute Taction r6pose sur ce r61e, mais 
en y pesant de son poids et en F^crasant. Le drame ne saurait 
dtre qu'ii cette condition. Timide, ^lev^ dans le secret du foyer 
domestique, Yirginie aime Icilius, et son amour est celui d'une jeune 
fille, un amour qui se trahit, sans parler, qui se d^le en se 
cachant Lorsque le client d'Appius entraine Yirginie sur le 
Forum, Yirginie se couvre de son voile, et le peuple dispute au 
Decemvir une victime sans defense. Lorsque Yirginius k son 
tour revient de Tarm^e en toute h&te, se presente au tribunal 
d'Appius, et recommit avec d^sespoir que sa fille n'est d^jk plus 
k lui, lorsqu'il en appelle au peuple, lorsqu'il prend les dieux k 
t^moin, lorsque de la pri^re il passe k la menace, lorsqu'il rugit 
comme un lion bless^ lorsqu' enfin il se jette sur le couteau qui 
fera de la fille une morte, et de cette morte une vierge inviolde^ 
Yirginie n'appartient ddjk plus k la vie, ses forces I'ont abandonn^e; 
elle ne voit rien, n'entend rien, ne se soutient qu'en s'appuyant sur 
la poitrine de son p^re, et lorsque ce malheureux p^ie oublie xm 
moment sa fille pour se d^toumer vers le peuple ou le Decemvir, 

440 Appenaix, 

Yiiginie se laisse aller ii terre, et se rattache ^ peine au bord du 
manteau patemeL 

''C'est Uk nn de ces rdles que nos artistes n'accepteraient pas 
Tolontieis. Edit, il contient ii peine soixante lignes. Jou^, il 
assiste It la dui^ des qnatie premiers actes, pour disparaitre an 
cinqui&me, et lorsqn'il est pr^nt ii Taction, il n'y sert encore qu^ 
fonmir anx antres r61es leurs effets dramatique& Miss Faucit le 
remplit avec ce d^votlement dont je parlais tout It llieore; elle 
s'abandonne an talent de Macready, comme si ce ^talent ^tait sa 
propre gloire. Macready est T&me de oe corps qui n'a pins d'antre 
Yolont^ qne la yolont^ du tiag^ien, d'autres intentions que aes 
intentions, d'autre ambition que la &tiblesse, que la passiyit^ qiie 
Tinertie. Faiblesse, passivity inertie intelligente toutefois, car 
I'actrice trouye dans oette sorte d'abnegation d'elle-mdme un de ses 
plus legitimes triomphes, et le public sait bien I'applaudir en yoyant 
Virginie si douce, si malheureuse, si digne de piti^/' 

Ladt Maobeth. 

" Entre Yirginie et Lady Macbeth il y a toute la gamme de I'art 
k parcounr. Ce sont lit deux figures si diverses, qu'une mdme 
nature ne semble pas deyoir suffire ^ r^presenter I'une et Tautre ; 
mais le sentiment du vrai supply dans un artiste k bien des con- 
ditions physiques, et Miss Faucit, dans la sc&ne du sommeil, s'est 
^l^v^ jusqu'aux ejQTets les plus saississants de la terreur. On se 
rappellera toujours le geste impatient et inquiet avec lequel Lady 
Macbeth appelle son mari absent, et se retire elle-mSme en lui 
disant, ' Au Ut I aulit!'" 


"Mais enfin nous ayons vu le rdle de Juliette, et comment 
avons-nous yu ) Comment nous a-t-il ^t^ donn6 1 A coup s^ la 
direction de la troupe anglaise n'avait pas song^ d^ Tabord it 
garder un fragment de Shakespeare, et Miss Faucit seule, dans ce 
fragment du po^te, pour sa representation d'adieux. Cost le succis 
qui a yalu cet honneur it la trag^enne, et it nous la bonne fortune 
d'une semblable soiree. Je regrette profond^ent que Romeo eC 
Juliette ne soit pas jou^ une seconde fois. ... II n'est pas possible 

Parisian Dramatic Criticisms. 441 

que M. Mitchell n'essaie pas de nouveau tine repr^entation qui a 
d yiyement ^u toute la Salle. . . /' 

After describing the entrance of Romeo in the balcony scene, 
and the first words of Juliet's reverie, M. Edouard Thierry 
oontinues : — 

" CW le malheur de nos tragediennes que toute ndtre th^tre en 
oontienne pas une sc^ne de ce charme et de cette po^ie. Est-ce la 
Conservatoire f Est-ce Comeillel Est-ce Eacine lui-mSme qui 
leur apprendrait ^ jouer de telles choses 1 Plus heureuse, par Ik du 
moinSy Miss Faucit a trouv^ dans le po&te classique de TAngleterre 
dee situations comme le coeur les r^ve, oil la grande science de 
Tacteur est de savoir sentir et de savoir aimer. Miss Faucit 
a-t-elle jamais re9U d'autres lemons) EUe est femme; je ne 
suppose pas que Shakespeare ait demand^ autre chose k sa Juliette. 

^ Quel mattre, si ce n'est le coeur, enseignera le bonheur de confier 
le secret d'un premier amour k la nuit silencieuse, et ces ^lans oil 
I'fime se sent assez grande pour remplir Tespace infini, et cette 
pudeur d'amante de qui Tamant inapergu a surpris la delicieuse 
confidence, et cette rougeur voil^e par Tombre, et cette honte qui 
n'est ni de la honte ni mSme du regret, et ce regret, s'il en est un, 
qui ne sait si lui-m^me s'il ne s'appello pas du bonheur, et cette 
f^cite de deux &mes qui dchangent le serment d'amour, et cette 
promptitude d'enfant k donner toutes ses pens^, toute sa vie, et 
ce desir d'enfant qui veut les reprendre, et ces naivete d'enfant qui 
se h&tent de rendre plus encore qu on n'a repris, plus qu'on n'avait 
donn^ ; et ces adieux sans fin, et ce courage nouveau qui se sent 
plus fort que la mort, mais non pas que la separation et que 
I'absence 9 . . . Qui, il y a tout cela dans cette sc^ne de Shake- 
speare, qui est presque un poeme, et il n'y a rien de moins dans le 
jeu de Miss Helen Faucit On dcoutait et on admirait. £n ce 
moment tout le monde comprenait Shakespeare, comme tout le 
monde comprend Tamour. £t puis, c'est un des caract^res du talent 
de Miss Faucit, sa physionomie explique tout, raconte tout, apprend 
tout ; c'est un livre ouvert, un livre merveilleux, si vous voulez, ou 
chacun pent lire dans sa langue. J'en appelle aux souvenirs de 
ceux qui assistaient \ la representation de Borneo, aux souvenirs de 
notre public qui ne sait pas I'anglais : £st-il un seul mot de cet 


442 Appendix. 

admirable dialogue, un seul mot de ce charmant ayeu de JuliettOi 
qui n'ait ^t^ entendu, comme s'il eiit ^t^ dit dans une langue uni- 
veiselle, au sortir d^ levies de Miss Helen 1 

" n en a ^t^ de m^me de la sc^e entre Juliette et sa nourrioe, 
lorsque la bonne vieille revient lui rendre la r^ponse de Eom^, et 
que, soit malice, soit faiblesse de I'age, Tun et Tautre peut-^tre, elle 
ne vent pas cesser de se plaindre et de s'inteirompTe, en se reliant 
sur sa fatigue, sur ses douleuis de tSte, sur ses douleuis de reins. 
Je le r^pite, notre th^tre ne nous habitue pas ^ ces ing^uit^ 
ehaimantes \ ^ ces bouderies, a ces impatiences, k ces dOineriee ; et 
le public battait les mains ^ yoir Miss Faucit appuyer si doucement 
sa joue contre la joue de sa nourrice, se mettre ^ genous aupr^s 
d'elle, lui prendre le menton dans ses deux mains, la plaindre ayec 
sa gentilesse enfantine, la bercer sur son fauteuil, la cajoler, la flatter, 
la dorloter, impatiente cependant^ et avide d'entendre parler de 
Eom^, mais patiente ^ force d'impatience et de desir. 

''Miss Faucit a encore eu une sc^ne admirable, cell&<d d'un 
autre genre, la seine tragique oil elle prend le breuyage qui doit 
lui donner les apparences de la mort. Ainsi compost, une sckie 
se d^yeloppe comme un drame complet Bien n'y est onus. A 
partir du moment oil la Signora Capulet se retire, et oil sa file lui 
baise la main ^ genouz, ayec la tendresse passionn^ d'un dernier 
adieu, Juliette passe par tous les degr^ de la terreur ! Elle est 
seule, elle s'efifraie de la solitude, et elle songe k rappeler sa nourrice, 
puis elle essaie k se rassurer elle-m6me et ^ sourire k son efi&oL 
Elle s'excite au courage par Tayersion qu'elle ^prouye pour le 
Comte, et, si le breuyage ne produit pas son efifet, elle se dit, 
qu'elle a toujours un poignard pour se soustraire k la contrainte. 
Si pourtant ce breuyage ^tait r^llement un poison ? . . . Crainte 
singuliire de la mort par le poison, pour une femme qui yient de 
regarder son poignard comme une consolation et comme une force. 
Crainte naturelle toutefois, car le poignard c'est la mort yolontaire, 
le poison c'est la mort inyolontaire, et la mort mysterieuse, inconnue. 

'' Apr^ un moment de r^yerie, tous ces secrets de la mort yien- 
nent ^pouyanter la jeune fille. Plac^ yiyante dans le tombeau, 
elle s'y r^yeillera; mais que Eom^o tarde k yenir, et Tair doit 
manquer sous les yoiites de ces cayeauz funibrea Et la poussi^re 

Parisian Dramatic Criticisms. 443 

des tr^passde que Ton respire comme la cendre, et les ombres 
di oeuz qui ne sont plus qui voltigent sans cesse dans les t<in6bres, 
et Tybalt frapp^ par Rom^, Tybalt sanglant, mort de la veille, 
qui ne manquera pas de se r6unir k cette assembl6e invisible de 
spectres s^culaires ! . . . A ce moment Miss Faucit a ^t^ rdellement 
Bublima Le public partageait son ^pouvante, et cette <^pouyante 
s'est prolong^ jusqu'^ la fin du monologue, tant Tactrice a su 
yarier, par sa pantomime, par Texpression de ses traits, ces tableaux, 
cette suite dliorribles et ^tranges visions. 

^ Apris cette sc^ne, le dernier acte ne pouvait plus rien ajouter 
a Temotion du spectateur. . . . Miss Faucit a <$vit<i les eclats trop 
violens, et de la joie de Juliette en revoyant Homc^o, et do son do- 
sespoir en le revoyant avec la mort dans ses yeux. £llo a con- 
serve jusqu% la fin r^tonnemont vague de la lethargic. Peut- 
6tre, en effet, y a-t-U \k un sentiment plus vrai de la situation; 
mais an thtttre il faut que les efifets s'ajoutent les uns aux autres 
dans une progression math6matique, et le cinquiemo acte doit frapper 
le spectateur d'une impression plus vive que la quatri^mc. 

" Quoi qu'il en soit^ Miss Faucit a iik rappel6e par d'unaiiimes 
acclamations, et, quand elle a reparu, les bouquets pleuvaient k ses. 







i • 


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